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Legal Ethics

Calif. Assembly OKs Ban on Seeking New Lawyer Mental Health Info

July 8, 2019, 10:10 PM

The California Bar would be prohibited from seeking prospective lawyers’ health records under a measure the state Assembly approved July 8.

Senate Bill 544 unanimously cleared the Assembly and returns to the Senate for final action.

The measure would prohibit the California Bar from requesting or seeking to review any medical records relating to mental health, including by obtaining the consent of the applicant to disclose that information.

The only exceptions would be when the applicant sought to use the records to demonstrate good moral character or as a mitigating factor to explain a specific act of misconduct.

California would become the latest state to remove the requirement for prospective lawyers to indicate their mental health and sign over medical records.

California lawyers once they pass the bar must be determined to be of “good moral character” under the state Business & Professions Code Section 6060(b). They’re subject to regulation by the Legislature and admission and discipline by the California Supreme Court.

The measure by Sen. Thomas Umberg (D) is backed by Disability Rights California, a nonprofit advocating for people with disabilities.

To contact the reporter on this story: Joyce E. Cutler in San Francisco at jcutler@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at jkamens@bloomberglaw.com; John Crawley at jcrawley@bloomberglaw.com

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