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BUFALINO v. TELLER

October 24, 1962

William E. BUFALINO, Plaintiff,
v.
Stephen A. TELLER, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: FOLLMER

Plaintiff, William E. Bufalino, has filed a Complaint setting forth 'that the defendant, Stephen A. Teller, is sued for damages and injuries to the plaintiff through the processes of libel and slander, as will hereinafter more fully appear.' Plaintiff sets forth that he 'is an attorney and counsellor-at-law' and, inter alia, admitted to practice before 'the Supreme Court of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania' and 'the Courts of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania'; that he 'filed an application for admission to the Bar of the State of Michigan on or about the 25th day of April, 1961.' In connection therewith, plaintiff filed with the National Conference of Bar Examiners an 'Application for Character Report' *fn1" which contained the statements, inter alia, as follows:

'I, William Eugene Bufalino, hereby apply for a character report to be filed with Board of Law Examiners in the State of Michigan in connection with my application for admission to practice law in the state of Michigan. It is my intention to comply with all requirements for admission to practice law in the state of Michigan so that I may be considered for admission as of 15 May 1961.

 * * * * * *

 'I understand that I will be notified by the National Conference of Bar Examiners when the report is filed with the proper authority in this state, and that said report shall be strictly confidential to the examining authority.

 * * * * * *

 'I, William Eugene Bufalino, hereby apply for a character report in connection with my application for admission to practice law in the State of Michigan. I understand that I will not receive and am not entitled to a copy of the report nor to know its contents. I agree to give any further information which may be required in reference to my past record and consent to having this investigation made and such information as may be received reported to the admitting authority.'

 The only allegation as to what constitutes the asserted libelous matter is in Paragraph 10 of the Complaint, namely,

 '10. That the letter referred to in this cause of action contains, among other defamatory and libelous matter, a statement to the effect that, 'The connection between the Bufalino family and the Mafia is strong,' or words to that effect; that it contains also a statement to the effect that the plaintiff's family and the plaintiff have racketeering and Mafia connections; and that, upon information and belief, the letter referred to made other degrading statements concerning the plaintiff affecting him in his profession.'

 The defendant has filed a Motion to Dismiss, a Motion for More Definite Statement, and a Motion to Strike.

 Defendant contends that under the facts in this case he was absolutely privileged to send the letter concerning plaintiff to the National Conference of Bar Examiners.

 The importance of obtaining, unhampered, full information concerning an applicant for admission to the Bar is well stated in an annotation in 64 A.L.R.2d 301 entitled 'Good Moral Character as requisite for admission to bar' in which there is quoted (page 306) the Supreme Court of Wisconsin that,

 "The importance or necessity of the requirement of a high moral character for honesty and integrity required of candidates for admission to the bar was well expressed in Re Law Examination of 1926 (1926) 191 Wis. 359, 210 N.W. 710: 'It can also be truthfully said that there exists nowhere greater temptations to deviate from the straight and narrow path than in the multiplicity of circumstances that arise in the practice of the profession. For these reasons the wisdom of requiring an applicant for admission to the bar to possess a high moral standard therefore becomes clearly apparent, and the board of bar examiners, as an arm of the court, is required to cause a minute examination to be made of the moral standard of each candidate for admission to practice * * *' The court further said: 'It needs no further argument, therefore, to arrive at the conclusion that the highest degree of scrutiny must be exercised as to the moral character of a candidate who presents himself for admission to the bar. * * *"'

 The basic necessity for freedom from the danger of a libel action in a situation such as here involved is manifest in Canon 29 of the Canons of ...


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