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Character and Fitness

Supreme Court of Wisconsin upholds the decision of the Wisconsin Board of Bar Examiners declining to certify that an applicant had satisfied the character and fitness requirements for admission to the Wisconsin bar.

The Supreme Court of Wisconsin, in a December 2018 ruling, upheld the decision of the Wisconsin Board of Bar Examiners declining to certify that Daniel R. Hausserman had satisfied the character and fitness requirements for admission to the Wisconsin bar. The board’s decision was based primarily on Hausserman’s conduct in 2015 and on his failure to disclose certain matters on his bar application. The conduct in question occurred over a period of approximately seven months during and after Hausserman’s final year of law school at Drake University and involved unwanted communications with a former girlfriend, a Drake undergraduate, even after orders to cease communications from both the university and the police, leading eventually to Hausserman’s arrest and conviction for third-degree harassment.

After being denied permission to take the Iowa bar examination on character and fitness grounds, Hausserman passed the Wisconsin bar examination in February 2017. In his Wisconsin bar application, he responded affirmatively to a question regarding whether he had been disciplined or placed on probation by a law school, but he explained only that he had been placed on academic probation for one semester and failed to disclose the restrictions Drake University had imposed on him related to his former girlfriend. When later asked about his lack of candor about this and certain other matters, he offered “incomplete and/or flippant” explanations of these occurrences. After a hearing, the Board of Bar Examiners concluded that Hausserman had failed to establish good moral character. Hausserman appealed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Hausserman argued that the board’s decision was not supported by the record and was inconsistent with the resolution of other bar admission cases. He reminded the Supreme Court that it had, on occasion, overruled the board and admitted certain applicants despite troubling conduct. The Court reviewed several such cases and concluded that they had several common factors that were not present in Hausserman’s case, including excellent and well-informed character references, evidence of rehabilitation, and sufficient passage of time. The Court concluded that the board’s decision to decline to certify Hausserman’s character and fitness was proper; it observed, however, that nothing in the rules precludes Hausserman from again seeking admission when he believes he can demonstrate his character and fitness to the satisfaction of the board and the Court.

See In the Matter of the Bar Admission of Daniel R. Hausserman, 2018 WI 115, 385 Wis.2d 70, 921 N.W.2d 211 (Wis. 2018), available at https://www.wicourts.gov/sc/opinion/DisplayDocument.pdf?content=pdf&seqNo=231289.