In Wilson v. Whitacre, 2 Ohio Cir. Dec. 392, 395 (1889), the plaintiff's action in libel against the defendant was predicated upon the fact that the defendant, a member of the Bar, had voluntarily and of his own motion sent a letter to the court concerning the plaintiff, who was an applicant for admission, and the court holding that defendant was protected by an absolute privilege, pointed out that 'it is certainly a matter of great importance to the welfare of society, that unworthy men should not be allowed to become members of the bar', and that it is 'the duty of every lawyer at least * * * who has knowledge of facts that would render the admission of an applicant improper, to call the attention of the court to the subject that due investigation might be had.'
In Ramsted v. Morgan (1959), 219 Or. 383, 347 P.2d 594, 77 A.L.R.2d 481, 486, a libel action was based upon a letter which the defendant (a client of the plaintiff) had sent to the Grievance Committee of the local Bar Association Complaining of the plaintiff's conduct as his attorney. The Oregon Supreme Court in holding such communication absolutely privileged said:
'The absolute privilege to publish defamatory matter under the circumstances to which the privilege applies is based upon the ground that 'there are certain relations of life in which it is so important that the persons engaged in them should be able to speak freely that the law takes the risk of their abusing the occasion and speaking maliciously as well as untruly, and in order that their duties may be carried on freely and without fear of any action being brought against them, it says: 'We will treat as absolutely privileged any statement made in the performance of these duties,"'
The Court in pointing out that 'The rule of absolute privilege is applicable not only to judicial proceedings but to quasi-judicial proceedings as well' stated: 'The proceedings may be regarded as quasi-judicial in character in spite of the fact that the body before whom the proceedings are conducted is not the creature of the legislature.'
Likewise, in Toft v. Ketchum (1955) 18 N.J. 280, 113 A.2d 671, 52 A.L.R.2d 1208, in an action for malicious prosecution, Chief Justice Vanderbilt said:
'* * * we are necessarily forced to give great weight to the fact that we have been charged by Constitution with the solemn duty of ridding the bar of those who are unfit to practice our profession. As we have seen, this is fundamentally a duty to the public and it is necessary that we make every effort to do this job to the best of our ability. If each person who files a complaint with the ethics and grievance committee may be subject to a malicious prosecution action by the accused attorney there is no question but that the effect in many instances would be the suppression of legitimate charges against attorneys who have been guilty of unethical conduct, a result clearly not in the public interest. And although to deprive an attorney of his right to recover damages in a civil action for the malicious filing of such a complaint without probable cause occasionally works a hardship upon the attorney * * * we are of the opinion that this result must follow if we are to properly carry out our constitutional duty to maintain the high standards in our bar. We therefore find that the filing of a complaint with an ethics and grievance committee is privileged and that an attorney cannot predicate a malicious prosecution action or similar suit upon it.'
Of much greater significance, importance and applicability is the Doctrine of Absolute Privilege in a situation such as here involved. The plaintiff, himself, in connection with an application to the Board of Law Examiners requested the National Conference of Bar Examiners to obtain and furnish a character report to the Board of Law Examiners and specifically agreed that such report be 'strictly confidential to the examining authority' and that he understood that he would not receive and was not entitled to a copy of the report nor to know its contents. He further consented to 'having this investigation made and such information as may be received reported to the admitting authority.'
The defendant, an attorney, complied with the request for information in this investigation. To place an attorney in the position that he would be subject to a libel action if he gave any information which was not laudatory of applicant would render such inquiry nugatory.
Plaintiff has referred to many cases dealing with matters divulged to the public press. Such cases of course have no bearing whatsoever on the present problem. Likewise, he claims the right to show motivation, a contention which under the doctrine of absolute privilege is without merit. It is succinctly answered by Justice Cohen in Montgomery v. Philadelphia, 392 Pa. 178, 180, 140 A.2d 100 (1958) in Footnote 1 as follows: 'If the defendant officials were acting within the scope of their authority and were by virtue of their position entitled to absolute privilege, the fact that their statements were made also for their own personal motives would be immaterial as would be the presence of malice or want of reasonable or probable cause.' The fact that there may have been a dictation of the letter to a stenographer in Pennsylvania would not be material, Restatement-Torts, § 604, Comment b. We need not decide whether the law of Pennsylvania or Colorado, where the National Conference of Bar Examiners is located, should be applied, since nothing has been submitted which would cause this Court to believe that the law of Pennsylvania would not fully sustain the defense of absolute privilege under the present facts
and no decisions of the Colorado courts have been found which would justify any contrary conclusion as to the law of Colorado.
It was the defendant's duty as an attorney and as the District Attorney of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, to respond to the request of the National Conference of Bar Examiners for information to be supplied to the Board of Law Examiners. Freedom of action in that regard must not be restricted by the danger or fear of the possible harassment and expense and inevitable hazards of vindictive or ill-founded damage suits.
An Order will be entered granting the Motion to Dismiss.
In view of the granting of the Motion to Dismiss, the remaining motions for more definite statement and to strike become moot.