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Can the state BAR deny a license to practice law based on an expunged or sealed record in Ohio?

Columbus, OH |

ORC 2953.33 asserts the following:

(1) In any application for employment, license, or other right or privilege, any appearance as a witness, or any other inquiry, except as provided in division (E) of section 2953.32 and in section 3319.292 of the Revised Code and subject to division (B)(2) of this section, a person may be questioned only with respect to convictions not sealed, bail forfeitures not expunged under section 2953.42 of the Revised Code as it existed prior to June 29, 1988, and bail forfeitures not sealed, unless the question bears a direct and substantial relationship to the position for which the person is being considered.

Section A of ORC 2953.33 restored all rights and privileges to an individual whose record has been ordered sealed or expunged.

ORC defined a privilege as: "an immunity, license, or right conferred by law, bestowed by express or implied grant, arising out of status, position, office, or relationship, or growing out of necessity." Is there a legal difference between inquiring as to the details of a subject and denying a right or privilege? Essentially, it would seem that the privilege of practicing law is given back to the individual whose record was ordered sealed, but the BAR can still make an inquiry into the matter; however, I do not read the law as allowing the BAR to revoke that privilege.

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Attorney answers 3


"[U]nless the question bears a direct and substantial relationship to the position for which the person is being considered." This is the catch-all provision/exception to the statute. I believe the Ohio bar will take the position that you have to disclose and expunged or sealed record, because it bears on your character and fitness to practice law.

You appear to be the same person who made a similar inquiry a few days ago on this subject. The bottom line, in my opinion, is that you should disclose your record, rather than take the position that you are not required to disclose it. Contrary to what many lay people believe, lawyers are held to high standards, and people who seek a license to practice law are expected to be scrupulously honest when answering questions on a bar application.

Again, if you are reluctant to make the disclosure, you should consult privately with an attorney in Ohio about the details of your situation. I think that disclosing the information will not necessarily disqualify you from obtaining a license. But holding back the information probably will. Good luck.

The response I have provided is general in nature, and does not create an attorney-client relationship. My practice is based in Rhode Island, and the law and practice in other states or jurisdictions may be different.


The Supreme Court of Ohio would likely argue that any charge, whether a sealed dismissal or conviction is relevant to your character and fitness to become a license attorney in Ohio. They would likely additionally argue that said information, coupled with new disciplinary conduct, is relevant to a determination as to whether to suspend or revoke your license to practice.


I have been on the committee who does these character and fitness interviews for 5 or so years now. You are not asking the right question or really taking the right approach here. IF you have ANY charge, you have a DUTY to disclose it. IF you lie about it, well THAT is the think that impacts your character and fitness. Your failure to disclose or attempt to cover something up are FAR more important. The fact that you had a prior charge CAN also prohibit you from practicing. It depends. I had a friend who could not practice in Ohio because she had a Marijuana charge from high school, however she was able to practice in a different state, with NO problems. End of the day, it depends on what you have been charged with. GOOD LUCK.

The above information is not, nor intend to be, legal advice. You SHOULD consult an attorney for specific advice regarding your individual situation. Based on this response no attorney-client relationship has been formed. If your matter is in Cuyahoga County or surrounding counties, we invite you to contact us. Please visit our website at Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information until such time and attorney-client relationship is formed. Attorneys in this firm are only licensed to practice in the state of Ohio and have no specific information as to the laws and rules of other states and none of the information provided is intended to be applied to the laws of other states.



I don't quite understand why you are unable to interpret such a simple question. There is no question as to whether an individual applying for a license should reveal the information to the BAR; however, I read the law as not allowing law schools to question the subject on sealed or expunged matters. That being said, ALL rights and PRIVILEGES are RESTORED upon an order to seal a record. A license is a privilege, according to the ORC. Now, the law allows the BAR to question someone as to the details of a sealed record, I agree, but the law does not allow the licensing agency to revoke the privileges which have been restored. Let me ask you, is there a difference between questioning someone as to the details of something and revoking a privilege that has been restored? If your answer is yes, I conclude that section A and B of ORC 2953.33 are referring to two different things. The rights and privileges are restored, and even though the BAR can question someone as to the details of a sealed record, the bar cannot actually revoke a privilege that has been restored. If the BAR denies a license to an individual whose record has been expunged, the BAR would effectively be revoking the privileges which were already restored. Again, the law allows the individual to be questioned on the matter, but the law does not allow for the BAR to revoke the restored privileges of the individual.

Peter Stephen Kirner

Peter Stephen Kirner


My interpretation of the law is irrelevant here. Regardless of any opinion you receive here, it does not change the facts, what ever they may be. The law has a process. You follow that. If the court does not agree with you, then your interpretation is wrong. I am not sure what you seek from this site, you are not going to get an answer that satisfies your per-intrepreted view of the law.

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