Recently, I had the opportunity to address whether a Pennsylvania Bar applicant may lawfully and ethically refuse to disclose on the application that he/she filed for or obtained a license to carry firearms (LTCF) because of the confidentiality provisions of 18 Pa.C.S. § 6111(i).
Several weeks ago, a client and soon-to-be Bar applicant contacted me regarding the seemingly required disclosure of his LTCF information. On page 34 of the 40 page application to register to take the PA Bar exam, the applicant is asked:
Have you ever applied for a permit or license, other than one to practice law, that required proof of good character (e.g., CPA, concealed weapons permit, medical professional, teacher, stock broker, etc.)? (emphasis added)
There are then boxes for the applicant to check off either yes or no. An applicant that responds in the affirmative is then asked:
Please provide a separate entry for each permit or license application. Provide the permit or license type, the jurisdiction in which you applied for the license or permit, the disposition of your application for the permit or license, and your permit or license number (if known).
However, pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S. § 6111(i) all LTCF information is confidential:
Confidentiality. All information provided by the potential … applicant, including, but not limited to, the … applicant’s name or identity, furnished by … any applicant for a license to carry a firearm as provided by section 6109 shall be confidential and not subject to public disclosure. In addition to any other sanction or penalty imposed by this chapter, any person, licensed dealer, State or local governmental agency or department that violates this subsection shall be liable in civil damages in the amount of $1,000 per occurrence or three times the actual damages incurred as a result of the violation, whichever is greater, as well as reasonable attorney fees. (emphasis added).
Upon becoming aware of this (having forgotten about having to respond to this question when I applied for the Bar exam), I agreed to draft a letter to the Pennsylvania Board of Law Examiners requesting an official determination that a Bar applicant may lawfully and ethically not respond to the question of whether he/she has applied for or obtained an LTCF as the information is confidential under Pennsylvania law. I sent the expedited request on March 23, 2014, because all Bar applications must be filed by April 15, 2014.
On April 1, 2014, the PA Board of Law Examiners graciously granted my request to expedite the formal decision by responding back that:
However, due to the unresolved issues with respect to the confidentiality of the information concerning a concealed weapons permit, you are advised that your client in completing his July 2014 Pennsylvania bar application may answer the question dealing in part with whether he had ever applied for a concealed weapons permit in the negative (assuming that he had not applied for any of the other applicable permits or licenses) notwithstanding the fact that he had in fact applied for and was issued such a permit.
Attorney Joseph Rengert, Counsel to the Board, went on to explain that:
Your client should then indicate in response to the last question on the electronic application which requires disclosure of other relevant information, that it was his intent to not provide any response to the question dealing with concealed weapons permits due to confidentiality concerns but that since this was not an available option for him in completing the application, he answered no to the question. Given the constraints of the electronic application process which do not permit an applicant to not answer a question, the fact that your client answered no to the question about having applied for a concealed weapons permit with the accompanying explanation noted above will not be considered an untruthful response to that question on the bar application.”
A copy of the April 1, 2014 letter from the PA Board of Law Examiner can be downloaded here.
While not an ultimate decision that a Bar applicant does NOT have to respond to question 34 for future Bar applications or that the question will definitively be modified in accordance with Section 6111(i), and while acknowledging that some form of disclosure is still being required by the Board in accordance with the above directions, given the extremely short notice and willingness by the Board to timely act, my client and I are extremely appreciative of the actions and determination of the Board. We expect, based on the positive response received, that a final determination will be made by the Board, before the next Bar exam, that a Bar applicant does not need to respond to question 34 in relation to a PA LTCF.