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Calif. Legislature OKs Bill Protecting Lawyer Mental Health Info

July 11, 2019, 7:51 PM

The California state Senate unanimously approved legislation July 11 that would prohibit the California bar from seeking prospective lawyers’ mental health records.

The measure now goes to Gov. Gavin Newsom, who hasn’t taken a position on the legislation. He has 10 days to sign or veto it.

S.B. 544, which cleared the Assembly July 8, aims to block the state bar from seeking medical records relating to mental health, or seeking consent of an applicant to disclose that information. Other states have taken similar steps.

An exception would be available for applicants who want to provide the records to demonstrate good moral character or as a mitigating factor to explain a specific act of misconduct.

California lawyers who have passed 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: Laura Mahoney in Sacramento, Calif. at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at; John Crawley at