Like a driver’s license, a law license is a privilege, not a right. Both must be earned, of course – and earning the latter requires a substantial investment of time and money – but they’re both still privileges. Abuse the privilege and you may lose the license.
Being repeatedly stopped for driving under the influence can put a driver’s license in jeopardy. Being caught engaging in unethical or criminal behavior can likewise jeopardize a law license.
In either case, a license lost may be restored if the offender can convince the licensing authorities that he has learned his lesson and mended his ways. The burden of proof is on the one soliciting reinstatement, however, as there is no presumption of innocence.
Moreover, it would be unfair to other license holders, and to the general public, to restore a privilege to someone who seems likely to abuse it again.
Mercy is one thing, and we all should cultivate it, but is it really merciful to compel responsible others to negotiate the highways or the halls of justice with operators whose judgment has been proven to be seriously flawed? Must we give someone the benefit of the doubt when there isn’t much to give? Should we not also show mercy to the persons they might victimize in the future?
Dante DiTrapano’s bid to have his law license reinstated raised these questions, and the majority of our State Supreme Court felt compelled to deny his request. For this, we thank them.
“Pursuant to our review of the entire record, we find that Mr. DiTrapano has not satisfied his burden of showing that he presently possesses the integrity and moral character to resume the practice of law,” the majority concluded. “Therefore, we decline to reinstate Mr. DiTrapano’s law license.”
The quality of the legal profession was improved when Dante DiTrapano’s law license was revoked in 2007 after multiple ethical lapses. That’s our opinion. Still, we wish him well in other pursuits.