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Two men had their turn before the California Supreme Court Monday. At stake is one man’s fortune and another’s future. San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds strutted out of the courtroom with a smile on his face after it appeared from the questioning that the justices might reinstate his much-publicized prenuptial agreement with ex-wife Sun Bonds. But disappointment appears to be in store for would-be lawyer Eben Gossage, who wants the court to look beyond his manslaughter, drug and traffic convictions and permit him into the profession. Later in the day, the justices took up In re Gossage on Admission, S068704, the case involving Gossage, a prominent San Francisco advertising executive’s son, whose storybook life was cut short when he killed his sister with a hammer and a pair of scissors during a 1975 scuffle. Gauging from the questions, the justices are likely to tell Gossage to resubmit his application for admission. But the court grappled with the larger question posed by his case, namely, how long a period of rehabilitation should be shown in order to overcome a history of criminal conduct? Gossage bounced around San Francisco addicted to drugs and alcohol and compiled a lengthy record of felony convictions before turning his life around and attending college and, later, law school. “Does the prospect of rehabilitation always excuse past criminal conduct in what I view as a highly respected profession?” Justice Marvin Baxter asked Gossage’s attorney, Ephraim Margolin. Justice Joyce Kennard also made it clear she was bothered by Gossage omitting 13 of his convictions on his Bar application. “Given the serious nature of the conduct, it would appear at this point that the rehabilitation period is not substantial enough and no compelling showing has been made,” she said. Gossage’s bid to join the bar has been blocked twice by the State Bar’s Commitee of Bar Examiners because of a slew of parking and traffic tickets he accumulated while attending San Francisco’s Golden Gate University School of Law. The examiners argued that the parking tickets — though they pale in comparison to Gossage’s past acts — show a pattern of irresponsibility, lack of candor and disobedience to the law, since they occurred after he had straightened up and was attending law school. Gossage, who had relied on character witnesses — including San Francisco District Attorney Terrence Hallinan and California Senate President Pro Tem John Burton, D-San Francisco — convinced a State Bar Court trial judge and review panel to admit him, but the Committee of Bar Examiners asked the California Supreme Court to overrule that decision. On Monday, California State Bar attorney Andrea Wachter argued that Gossage had engaged in egregious behavior for at least nine years and she recommended that he be rehabilitated for at least that amount of time. The justices didn’t seem to rule out Wachter’s suggestion. Since his last conviction was in 1993, the justices hinted that Gossage should probably wait about two years before re-applying for admission or — as bar rules allow — start the entire process over immediately by retaking the bar exam. “Most of us agree there is a six-year period of unblemished conduct,” Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar said, referring to Gossage’s record since 1993. “Is there a standard length of time [needed to show rehabilitation]?”

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