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Law license for Arch Moore?

Not unless he shows remorse

Not unless he shows remorse

December 06, 2002

Should former West Virginia governor Arch Moore get his law license back? Not unless he accepts responsibility for the five felonies he pled guilty to in 1991.

Moore appeared before disciplinary panel of the State Bar Tuesday and said he would make a "respectable lawyer" if his license were reinstated. Moore's attorney said that no ethics complaint had been filed against him in 40 years of practice and that the focus of the hearing should be his conduct in years since he was disbarred.

Not surprisingly, Moore's attorney wanted less attention paid to the five felony charges to which Moore entered guilty pleas - mail fraud, extortion, two counts of tax evasion and obstruction of justice.

Moore said his guilty plea was "tentative" and only made to get his attorney access to the evidence federal prosecutors had. At the time, Moore said, he believed he could withdraw the plea at any time.

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When he tried, the judge refused and Moore appealed that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the court didn't buy his argument that his counsel was incompetent. He served three years in a federal prison camp.

As a lawyer, the former governor should be aware that when someone comes up for parole, part of what the review board looks for is an acceptance of responsibility for the crime and remorse.

Moore's plea isn't providing either. He says he didn't plead guilt because he was guilty, but as a legal tactic. Therefore, he believes it shouldn't count.

There is some sentiment that at age 79, Moore should be allowed to reclaim some of the dignity he lost back when the state Supreme Court took away his license in 1991. Apparently, his quest for dignity prevents him for acknowledging any error.

Until he does, Moore should not regain his law license, unless the State Bar wants to send the message to other defendants that they can plead guilty, then come back later and argue they really didn't mean it.

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