October 29, 1999





SPRINGFIELD, ILLINOIS -- The Committee on Character and Fitness filed with the Illinois Supreme Court on Friday its response to Matthew F. Hale’s petition for a license to practice law in Illinois.

The Committee also filed a motion with the Supreme Court asking for permission to supplement the official record in the case by referencing events involving Benjamin Smith, a former disciple of Mr. Hale’s, who authorities said went on a shooting rampage in early July and then took his own life.

In its response objecting to Mr. Hale’s admission to practice law in Illinois, the Committee said that his background demonstrates disrespect for the truth and the law, and that Mr. Hale espouses violence motivated by racial and religious hatred. The Committee said that Mr. Hale failed to show by clear and convincing evidence that he possesses the requisite moral character and fitness to practice law in Illinois.

Mr. Hale had filed his petition on July 29, asking the Supreme Court to review earlier findings of the Committee on Character and Fitness which refused to certify the good moral character and fitness of Mr. Hale to be granted a law license.

A three-person Inquiry Panel of the Committee on Character and Fitness rejected Mr. Hale’s application on December 16, 1998. Under rules of the Committee, Mr. Hale appealed to a five-person Hearing Panel of the Committee. That panel held its hearing on April 10, 1999, and on June 30, 1999, issued findings which also refused to certify that Mr. Hale had the requisite moral character and fitness to practice law in Illinois.

Mr. Smith began his shooting spree on July 2nd.

Mr. Hale’s petition to the Supreme Court asked it to review the earlier findings and to reverse the Committee’s refusal to certify Mr. Hale’s fitness for admission to the Illinois bar.

In Illinois, the bar admission process is governed by the Illinois Supreme Court and is administered through the Board of Admissions to the Bar which oversees the Committee on Character and Fitness. Members of the Board and the Committee are lawyers appointed by the Court.

It is uncertain when the Illinois Supreme Court will decide the matter. The Court begins meeting as a whole in Springfield for its November term beginning November 8.

Attorneys for the Committee are George J. Murtaugh, Jr. (312) 360-1820; Robert P. Cummins (312) 855-9200; and Marc W. Martin (312) 726-9015.

Attorneys for Mr. Hale are Robert Herman (314) 862-0200; and Anita Rivkin-Carothers (312) 641-2901.