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Lack of Candor Dooms Man’s Bid for Admission to Oregon Bar (1)

Dec. 3, 2021, 11:40 PMUpdated: Dec. 5, 2021, 3:26 PM

An Oregon resident who withheld negative background information on his application to practice law failed to demonstrate the moral fitness necessary to become a member of the state’s bar, the Oregon Supreme Court said.

Kevin Richard Kauffman applied to join the Oregon State Bar in 2019 after sitting for the July test. Before he got his passing score, he was notified that his character-and fitness investigation wasn’t complete. He allegedly left off information about a restraining order and provided misleading information about a criminal complaint from a former employer in Ohio.

Admissions staff at the State Bar of Oregon later invited Kauffman to a review in front of a panel from the Board of Bar Examiners. Many of his answers “were contradictory, unclear, or incomplete,” the state Supreme Court said in an opinion issued Thursday.

Kauffman was denied admission, and the state Supreme Court affirmed that decision, saying he had “not met his burden” to show he possesses the good moral character to practice law.

Kauffman only included “a cryptic narrative” that indicated he was forced to file reports against his former employer in Ohio, but he did not identify the employer or include the details about the criminal complaint, the court said.

The per curiam opinion also says the “application appeared designed to conceal unfavorable information about his employment with the Ohio employer” and other key details. The court also pointed to contradictory explanations as to the lack of disclosure.

That lack of explanation combined with a “lack of candor and cooperation” during the investigation doomed the applicant’s bid to overturn the rejection, according to the appeals court. It found that Kauffman “failed in his obligation to cooperate and comply with the board in its investigation” in part by providing “incomplete, inconsistent, or contradictory” answers to board questions.

In a statement to Bloomberg Law, Kauffman said the court’s decision was based on “false input” from his employer and that the state bar “used double standards in my application process compared to other candidates.”

Kauffman said he faced more small board examiners than other applicants and had less notice about the identity of those examiners. He said he couldn’t access the transcript of his panel interview without a court order, unlike other applicants.

“I disclosed (including police reports, items included in the petition to OSB), attended, and answered from 2019 until their decision, thus cooperating,” Kauffman said.

Kauffman represented himself.

The case is In re Kauffman, Or., No. SC S067932, 12/2/21.

(Updates Dec. 3 story with Kauffman statement beginning in eighth paragraph.)

To contact the reporter on this story: David McAfee in Los Angeles at dmcAfee@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Peggy Aulino at maulino@bloomberglaw.com