Why do CA lawyers have to get fingerprinted again?

I’m a CA licensed attorney and had to go through a Live Scan fingerprint process today. It took about two hours of my time including understanding the requirements, filling out the form, and actually doing the fingerprinting. It cost money and seemed fragile. The attorney who went before me couldn’t get good prints and now has to do some other process. I was fingerprinted when I applied for admission to the CA bar. Why did I have to do this again?

Basically this is about fixing a broken process with the CA Department of Justice (DOJ). The DOJ is supposed to notify the State Bar of attorney arrests or convictions. But that hasn’t been happening for, it seems, 30 years?

Sigh. Part of my job is to fix broken processes so I can imagine how this went:

State Bar: Hey you were supposed to be notifying us of all attorney arrests and convictions for the last 30 years.
DOJ: Ummmmmmmmmm… sorry. Do you just want a list of literally everyone?
State Bar: Just tell us when an attorney gets nailed.
DOJ: How do we know who the attorneys are? We’re going to need all their fingerprints.
State Bar: But we threw them all away.

Anyway, the State Bar says it’s sorry but we all have to get fingerprinted again.

I’m all for catching bad lawyers. But I’m also for basic table-stakes competency. So I can’t say I was super happy to be doing this.

We’ll see what happens when the DOJ starts reporting arrests and convictions. Some estimates are that up to 10% of California’s licensed attorneys may have unreported criminal activity. As a lawyer, you are supposed to self-report this kind of event to the State Bar, but that rarely happens. And, I don’t know, maybe you can understand that. I’m a very good rule follower but god-forbid if my life got upended by some arrest and conviction I’m not sure reporting the already-pretty-public event to the State Bar would be the first thing on my mind.