The fingerprinting of California lawyers has long been a statutorily imposed requirement.
Notwithstanding the duty, though, the onus has been less than routinely insisted upon by state legal regulators. That inconsistency in adhering to the law led to subsequent legislation in 2017 that mandated the re-fingerprinting of all practitioners on active status.
The process is still ongoing. Reportedly, about 190,000 active California attorneys have now submitted to the process, with more than 64,000 lawyers not having yet complied.
An initial deadline imposed for completion last year was extended, with the large pool of affected attorneys being given until May 1 of this year to complete the process. Practitioners not in compliance by that date will be sanctioned with a small fine. A second and larger exaction will be levied on those who still haven’t acted by August 1. Those still not conforming by December will have their status changed to inactive.
That many attorneys are tardy in coming forward concerns some industry insiders and regulators. One bar official recently noted the possibility that individuals who still haven’t complied could “likely be the worst offenders.”
Relevant re-fingerprinting data analyzed thus far does give officials some grounds for worry. The bar agency with oversight of the process states that it has already turned up more than 6,000 criminal records. More than one-third of those relate to convictions previously unreported to the bar, as required by state law.
Only a fraction of the incoming criminal histories thus far spotlight felony convictions. Bar officials hope it stays that way.