Benjamin Smith’s recent racially-motivated rampage focused national attention on Smith’s mentor, white supremacist Matthew F. Hale — and Hale’s rejected application for admission to the Illinois bar. Many believe Smith’s deadly spree was motivated by Hale’s denial of admission.

Almost every bar reserves the right to test an applicant’s “moral character” or “fitness” before granting admission. But far more often than not, the “character committees” that do the evaluations serve as little more than rubber stamps. Fewer than one per cent of last year’s Illinois bar applicants were rejected for admission — most for obvious deficiencies such as drug dependency or conviction of a serious crime. But in Hale’s case, many have interpreted the Illinois bar’s refusal to admit him as being based entirely on his political and religious beliefs.

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