“I was visibly shaken,” said Wittenberg, a former partner with Oakland’s Crosby, Heafey, Roach & May. Dressed in a gray suit, with his handlebar moustache neatly groomed, the patent attorney added, “I saw my life go before me.”

It was clear on Tuesday that the fate of Wittenberg’s 30-year legal career hangs on how State Bar Court Judge Patrice McElroy interprets two words: moral turpitude.