In the Matter of the Bar Admission of Joshua E. Jarrett; Joshua E. Jarrett, Petitioner,
Board of Bar Examiners, Respondent
of Board of Bar Examiners decision.
Decision reversed and remanded.
petitioner, there were briefs by Joshua E. Jarrett.
Board of Bar Examiners, there was a brief by Jacquelynn B.
Rothstein, Director & Legal Counsel.
T. PROSSER, J. (concurring). PATIENCE DRAKE ROGGENSACK, C.J.
Wis.2d 570] PER CURIAM.
[¶1] This is a review, pursuant to SCR
40.08(7), of the final decision of the Board of Bar Examiners
(Board) declining to certify that the petitioner, Joshua E.
Jarrett, has satisfied the character and fitness requirements
for admission to the Wisconsin bar set forth in SCR 40.06(1).
The Board's refusal to certify that Mr. Jarrett satisfied
the character and fitness requirements for admission to the
Wisconsin bar was based primarily on Mr. Jarrett's
conduct following his second year in law school, when he
committed academic misconduct by misrepresenting law school
grades and information to a prospective employer. After
careful review, we reverse and remand the matter to the Board
for further proceedings.
[¶2] We appreciate the Board's concern
regarding this candidate, and we appreciate the thorough
investigation the Board conducted into Mr. Jarrett's
background and past conduct. Mr. Jarrett's academic
misconduct raised a significant question about his fitness to
practice law. The duty to examine an applicant's
for bar admission rests initially on the Board, and this
court relies heavily on the Board's investigation and
evaluation. In the final analysis, however, this court
retains supervisory authority and has the ultimate
responsibility for regulating admission to the Wisconsin bar.
See In re Bar Admission of Rippl, 2002 WI 15, ¶3,
250 Wis.2d 519, 639 N.W.2d [368 Wis.2d 571] 553, and In
re Bar Admission of Vanderperren, 2003 WI 37, ¶2, 261
Wis.2d 150, 661 N.W.2d 27.
[¶3] While we understand the Board's
decision, we conclude that the incidents the Board relied
upon, while troubling, are sufficiently offset by evidence of
rehabilitation to warrant our conclusion that Mr. Jarrett may
be admitted to the practice of law in this state, albeit with
conditions. Accordingly, we reverse.
[¶4] Mr. Jarrett grew up in Georgia. He
attended Albany State University, majoring in Criminal
Justice and graduating in 2009. He participated in a
prestigious summer internship with the U.S. Department of
State in Washington D.C., and then returned to Georgia to
become a police officer. After serving successfully as a
police officer for a year, Mr. Jarrett applied and was
accepted at the University of Wisconsin Law School.
[¶5] Mr. Jarrett started law school in the
fall of 2011. As a first-year law student, Mr. Jarrett was
accepted into the Wisconsin Innocence Project criminal
appeals clinic where he performed well.
[¶6] In 2012, Mr. Jarrett committed the
misconduct that eventually gave rise to this proceeding. The
Board would later make the following factual findings
regarding the incident:
2. In the Summer of 2012 and as part of the summer employment
procurement process for law students, Mr. Jarrett submitted a
resume and an unofficial transcript to the University of
Wisconsin Law School office responsible for on-campus
interviews. Through that process, Mr. Jarrett sought
employment with the New York City Law Department for the
Summer of 2013.
3. The resume and unofficial transcript that Jarrett
submitted to the New York City Law Department [368 Wis.2d
572] were both false. The resume contained two falsehoods. It
showed Mr. Jarrett's grade point average (GPA) to be
2.75, when it was actually 2.72. It also listed him as a
staff member of the Wisconsin Law Review, when, in fact, he
was not a member. The unofficial transcript listed three
false grades for his coursework. It indicated that he had
" B" grades, when, in fact, he had " B-"
grades for all three courses.
4. Thereafter, Mr. Jarrett sent an e-mail to the New York
City Law Department. In it, he explained that the deadline
date for the submission of his employment materials was the
same date upon which he had been informed that he had not
been chosen for Law Review.
5. Determined to be " completely forthright" with
the New York City Law Department, Mr. Jarrett attached an
updated resume and unofficial transcript to the e-mail noting
that all the other information was current and valid.
However, Mr. Jarrett did not correct the other falsehoods,
namely the inflated grades and GPA. Instead, this version of
his transcript noted his GPA as a 3.0, not the inflated 2.75
or the actual 2.72.
6. In that same e-mail to the New York City Law Department,
he continued to report incorrect grades. Two grades were
inflated from " B-'s" to " B's."
Two others were similarly inflated; one from a B- to a B and
the other from a B to a B.
7. A hearing regarding Mr. Jarrett's alleged misconduct
was held on September 7, 2012,
before the Academic Misconduct Hearing Committee of the
University of Wisconsin (Committee). On September 17, 2012,
the Committee issued a written decision and determined that
Mr. Jarrett admitted to having embellished his academic
documents on two separate occasions.
8. The Committee further found that although Mr. Jarrett had
admitted to violating the University of [368 Wis.2d 573]
Wisconsin's academic code of conduct by forging or
falsifying academic documents or records, the seriousness of
that offense did not seem to immediately resonate with Mr.
Jarrett. The Committee also sanctioned Mr. Jarrett by placing
him on two semesters of disciplinary probation.
9. In his application for admission to the Wisconsin bar, Mr.
Jarrett admitted to inflating his grades and misrepresenting
his position on the Wisconsin Law Review.
10. Mr. Jarrett did not disclose the actual truth to the New
York City Law Department about being on Law Review, his
grades, or his GPA.
11. Mr. Jarrett repeatedly cited feeling enormous pressure as
the primary reason for engaging in his wrongful conduct.
12. Mr. Jarrett admitted that at the time of his wrongful
conduct he did not believe that he would get caught for
providing false information to the New York City Law
Department or that anyone would check to see whether he was
actually on Law Review.
[¶7] Meanwhile, Mr. Jarrett's law school
studies continued. He continued to perform well working for
the Wisconsin Innocence Project, joined the University of
Wisconsin Law School Moot Court Board, competed in two moot
court competitions, coached a moot court team, participated
in a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Clinic, held an unpaid
summer law clerk position [368 Wis.2d 574] with the Wisconsin
Department of Revenue, and worked as an academic advisor at a
private student housing facility.
[¶8] In December 2013, as a third-year law
student anticipating graduation, Mr. Jarrett applied for
admission to the Wisconsin State Bar under the diploma
privilege, SCR 40.03. In his bar application, Mr. Jarrett
disclosed having inflated his grades and misrepresenting his
position on the Wisconsin Law Review in his bar application.
Mr. Jarrett failed to report several traffic citations that
he had received between 2009 and 2013.
[¶9] In January 2014, a Board investigator
contacted Mr. Jarrett regarding his failure to disclose the
traffic citations. Mr. Jarrett replied in writing that he
" legitimately forgot" and filed an addendum
regarding the citations.
[¶10] On August 5, 2014, the Board informed
Mr. Jarrett, consistent with SCR 40.08(1), that his bar
admission application was " at risk of being
denied" on character and fitness grounds. Mr. Jarrett
formally contested the Board's preliminary adverse
determination and requested a hearing before the Board.
[¶11] The Board conducted a hearing on
December 8, 2014, at which Mr. Jarrett appeared. Following
the hearing Mr. Jarrett filed some additional documents in
support of his application. On April 10, 2015, the Board
issued an adverse decision making the findings set forth
above, as well as the following findings:
13. During his hearing before the Wisconsin Board of Bar
Examiners, Mr. Jarrett presented inconsistent and sometimes
contradictory statements regarding his [368 Wis.2d 575]
efforts to obtain summer employment with the New York City
Law Department, and about the extent to which he notified the
New York City Law Department regarding the falsehoods