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Abstract

State courts’ approach to lawyer admissions and discipline has not changed fundamentally in the past century. Courts still place faith in the idea that “moral character” is a stable trait that reliably predicts whether an individual will be honest in any given situation. Although research in neuroscience, cognitive science, psychiatry, research psychology, and behavioral economics (collectively “cognitive and social science”) has influenced prevailing concepts of personality and trustworthiness, courts to date have not considered whether they might change or refine their approach to “moral character” in light of scientific insights. This Article examines whether courts should reevaluate how they decide whether to allow lawyers to return to law practice after suspension or disbarment for impermissibly deceptive conduct. The Article describes courts’ traditional approach, discusses some of the relevant scientific literature, and suggests some possible reasons why courts appear not to have considered such scientific insights. The Article concludes with some thoughts about the utility of the role of scientific research in the disciplinary process.

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