Matt Hale (Admitted Racist) - Should he have his law license?

First off, apologies for this being a rather ‘old’ news story. Further, while a search didn’t pull up anything on this topic, it very well may have been discussed here and I’ve missed using the right key words.


Matt Hale is the leader of the World Church of The Creator (WCOTC). He is a caucasian, open racist. He refers to African Americans and Asian people as “mud-races” and believes that white people should keep their race ‘pure’.

In 1999 Benjamin Smith, a member of the WCOTC, went on a shooting spree in two different states. Before killing himself, he had killed two people (one African American - Ricky Byrdsong, former Northwestern University basketball coach, and a Korean student, Joon Yoon).

Matt Hale graduated from law school in 1998. He passed the bar exam. However, he did not pass the character and fitness portion and was, therefore, denied his law license.


As you can see from the article, the committee did not believe that he possessed the requisite moral character to practice law. (Please refrain from the obvious lawyer jokes you could make here.) He appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court which declined to hear the case.


Did the committee do the right and/or legal thing by denying an openly racist individual his law license?**

Some personal opinion

I don’t know. I suppose I’m rather vague about it because my gut doesn’t want him to represent attorneys (or really any human) but at the same time, it sure looks like denying him a license based upon his (political?) views.

I graduated from the same law school as Matt Hale. He was in his third year when I was in my first year. I had no idea then who he was. He certainly didn’t scream about killing mud-races while walking down the halls and when I finally did figure out who he was, most people I spoke with had to grit their teeth and say that he was frustratingly polite. That didn’t mean I wasn’t a bit scared to pass him in the hall (I’m 1/2 Korean) or that I wanted to be his moot court partner.

I suppose I could think he was mentally ill - because who in their right mind still believes in this crap? Surely we’re all a bit more…sane than that, right? But hell, I have an aunt who doesn’t think we’ve landed on the moon and while I think that’s nuts, it sure has followers - so who am I to say? So I am going to toss out the insane option I tossed around.

On one hand, he hasn’t done anything legally wrong, per se. He has some very warped ideas about the world but so do many people and we don’t deny them a law license. So how is this not a clear cut case of infringing upon his Constitutional rights? Why shouldn’t he be allowed to say that non-whites are inferior and still be able to practice law?

On the other hand, I could argue that this is a character review. Is not whether or not someone is racist an indication of their character? If my sister introduced me to her boyfriend and he was a racist leader, I’d cringe and not want a thing to do with him. I’d consider him lacking reliable judgment and would question his idea of right and wrong - and therefore, his character. So what should the committee do if they conclude that they believe an applicant can not tell the difference between right and wrong? That person doesn’t sound fit to practice law. And our laws support equality - how do we know he wouldn’t thwart them?

What do you think?


p.s. When I was typing up this post, I wrote “mud-bloods” instead of mud races and couldn’t figure out why that sounded funny. I’ve been reading too much Harry Potter.


Normally, I would agree - political views shouldn’t be a bar to practice.

But the Committee’s stated reasons for denial

are sound. IMO the phrase starting with “motivated” is irrelevant and should have been excised.

Regardless of motivation, a person who demonstrates disrespect for truth and the law, and espouses violence (i.e. criminal activity) shouldn’t be a lawyer, regardless of why he/she demonstrates such disrespect or espouses criminal activity.


Bear with me while I play Devil’s advocate here…

“a person who demonstrates disrespect for truth and the law”

What truth are you referring to? Matt Hale, though an asshole, might very well be an honest asshole. And he’s certainly entitled to be wrong. If it is only disrespect for the law - …well, see below:

“…and espouses violence (i.e. criminal activity)…”

is the criminal nature of the violence the core of what is wrong with it? But what then of civil disobedience? Is it respect for the law or respect for personhood here?

If I broke the law by protesting at an illegal gathering (and placing flyers around about the gathering) at a private restaurant that wouldn’t admit African Americans…have I shown disrespect for the law and espoused criminal activity? - regardless of my motivation, should I be denied my law license?


The nature of what Hale espoused in the way of action seems to be the problem. (Side note, I worked at Bradley Univ during the time he did his undergrad there…he was already a shithead then).

Although he claims to not condone violence at his web site…his actions suggest otherwise. (The Chicago Tribune had a great series about him a few years back…but not available online now) He sells t-shirts proclaiming that Benjamin Smith is a martyr…not exactly distancing himself from violence.

This kind of thing doesn’t help either.

(underlining mine)

Hey, Bradley reunion! I graduated from there in chemistry in 1999.

Nothing to add at this point, but I will be following this thread.

Yes, but did you READ his site? shudders

This guy makes Fred Phelps look like a harmless old coot.

If I recall correctly, at least one of the reasons cited for Matt Hale’s nonadmission to the Bar is that he argued his case for admission based on the Model Rules of Professional Conduct, instead of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct, which are slightly different in some ways that were very important to his argument (Illinois’ rules of ethics explicitly bar an attorney from refusing to represent a client on the basis of the client’s race, something which is missing from the MPRC, and Mr. Hale specifically cited the variant MPRC provision in his arguments). The Illinois Supreme Court concluded that this indicated that Mr. Hale was not a competent attorney (in that he did not know the law of the State of Illinois) and should therefore not be permitted to practice. (They also concluded that Mr. Hale was not prepared to follow Illinois’ rules of conduct, which would also disqualify him.) While his racism was a factor, the court had belief-neutral grounds (competency) to refuse him admission, which is presumably why the Supreme Court did not take up his petition for certiorari.

Actually, I don’t have a problem if a record of criminal civil disobedience ended up barring someone from the practice of law. Don’t get me wrong; I love a rousing bit of civil disobedience as much as the next bloke. It’s simply a choice of roles one chooses to perform. If one wants to use the law to Fight the Good Fight, then one must agree to respect the law and work within the bounds of the law for change.
If one chooses not to respect the law and wants to work outside it, fine. Just don’t be a lawyer.

(This, BTW, is wrapped up in my fervent belief that 99% of the point [and effectiveness] of civil disobedience is that one accepts the consequences of civil disobedience. It’s the acceptance of the consequences that makes the impact.)


Kelly, I don’t see Hale’s argument as being any worse than conduct one sees pretty constantly from seasoned lawyers. I won’t dig up the cite but I am reminded of an article last week where Justice Department lawyers received judicial criticism for presenting a dissenting opinion as controlling authority. The level of competency required for addmission is determined by the bar exam which I assume he passed. We don’t generally single out individuals we don’t like and give them an additional competency test in litigation skills.

I am generally uncomfortable with this kind of vague anachronistic moral character requirement. Its one thing to decide that someone has demonstrated they can’t be trusted with the fiduciary responsibilities of the profession. Its quiet another to suggest their beliefs bar them from admission to a profession.

Wasn’t Matt Hale - Admitted Racist an action film starring Dean Martin?

I had not heard any of this before and it was discussed quite a bit at the law school. I don’t think that this would be enough to claim him incompetent to practice law. There is the MPRE that tests professional responsibility and in no way are the Illinois rules involved. I understand what you’re saying but it doesn’t quite sit right with me. The link I posted to does not say anything about this so maybe I will do a search on WestLaw to see if something shows up there. Meanwhile, do you have an idea where this opinion came from? Thank you for the information!


I generally favor far less in terms of pre-bar admission character and fitness inquiry, and far more aggressive (and independent) discipline for ethical and competence lapses by licensed lawyers.

I think it is a touchy issue when some body takes it upon themselves to determine exactly what types of assholes are not qualified to practice law.

In short, I would favor granting him his license, but coming down hard on him if he misused it.


Tiburon, Codes of Professional Responsibility are a special case. I don’t know Illinois law on the issue in particular, but every state and district I have come across makes it an affirmative obligation for an attorney seeking admission, either regular or pro hac vice, to know and understand that state’s or district’s Professional Responsibility rules. Generally, it’s the only particular section of law concerning which an affirmative obligation is imposed (though pro hac vice admissions and at least some state admissions imposes an affirmative obligation to know the procedural rules.)

Normally, admittedly, you are not formally tested on your knowledge of the local professional responsibility rules, but here Hale exposed his lack of knowledge.


a license to practice law, like medicine, is a privilege, not a right. If a physician espoused views such as Hales, and said he would not treat other ethnic groups under his care or would not give them the same standard of care as white folks, he should certainly not be allowed to practice medicine, as the regulations for medical licensure specifically spell out the fact that this practice is not acceptable, nor would it be in the public interest. I was glad to see the Illinois bar has similar standards.

One should not be deprived of their rights because of their beliefs. But certain privileges can and should be denied when certain beliefs would lead to unacceptable actions.


Q - I suggest there is a slight difference betwen the practices of law and medicine.

It is somewhat unlikely that a lawyer will come upon someone in imminent risk of death if he doesn’t receive immediate legal attention.

I think the “privilege” to practice law should be based upon minimal competence. Similar to driving. For law, I suggest EITHER the graduation from an accredited law school with a minimally acceptable GPA OR passing the bar exam.

I think individual lawyers in private practice should have considerable leeway in determining who they do or do not represent. I also do not believe a person should have to give up their rights to free speech and association simply because they choose to enter the legal field.

Dinsdale - I think that California is one of the few places where you can practice law without going to law school, if you can pass their bar exam. Of course, I’d rather shoot myself in the foot than take the California bar…but that’s another story.

And I’d agree with Dinsdale, Qadgop, that a medical license and a legal license are pretty different, though I can appreciate your analogy. If an individual passed all the requisite exams and boards to become a physician, could you deny him/her the license because she’s a racist? Hale said, at least, he did when I last read one of his interviews, that he would treat his black clients the same as his white ones. That might be a load of crap and I’d suspect it very well is - but what MD wouldn’t say, “I’d save the life of a black man just as I would a white man”?

On the other hand, I’d be very wary of a physician who did not want to treat certain races - only, chances are, I’d never know who they are. (Which reminds me…my sister’s boyfriend is Chinese and once, a patient refused to have him help her because he was Chinese. What a dumb fuck.) sigh

Okay, back to **Q]/b]'s point that practicing law is a priviledge. Here is my issue with this: We do not want a committee or court to choose who gets a law license without some sort of structure. We’d like to think that who does or doesn’t practice law is based upon something, instead of the trivial whims of some people sitting on a bench. The question is not whether or not everyone should be allowed a license but what is used to determine if someone does get a license or, rather, what excludes someone from getting a license?

Matt Hale is a lousy asshole - but there is no law against being a lousy asshole. The committee, as far as I know, did not say that they were denying the license based upon criminal conduct. Yes, he may very well have espoused violence - where are charges about this?

Let’s say that he never, ever encouraged violence and simply admitted to being a neonazi racist bastard. And he had a club of peers. What then?


Dinsdale, you make a good point, but the public still has the right to be protected from a lawyer who has indicated he would meet people’s needs differently based on their race alone. Unless Mr. Hale hangs out a sign declaring he is a racist, an unsuspecting individual could contract with him and receive inadequate representation which could do damage. What is the Bar for if not to set standards so the public at large is protected?

tib, didn’t see your post. If Hale states he will treat races equally from a professional standpoint, that in my mind would make it less easy to fail to grant him a license.


I third that motion. Motion carried. (Though I suspect The Bradley Scout would have had a lot less circulation if it weren’t for his weekly idiot rants in the letters to the editor section.)

Should someone intentionally harm his client’s interests, I would assume various civil and criminal remedies would come into play. Perhaps start at malpractice,and end up somewhere around hate crimes.

My point is, I question the efficacy or fairness of attempts at pre-emptive protection such as these. Particularly when I see so many instances of ineffective discipline after-the-fact.

When in law school, I encountered many fellow students who, I thought would make lousy lawyers - either due to their intelligence, personalities, or viewpoints. Over the past 15 years I have encountered more of the same in practice. IME, there is far more of a “danger” to unsuspecting clients from incompetent lawyers, than ideologues.

If I were a white racist, and a person of color sought my legal services, I could decline providing them under any number of pretenses. Of course, I could have taken any number of precautions ahead of time to prevent ever getting in the position where persons of color would attempt to avail themselves of my services. If I intentionally solicited such clients with the intention of submarining their claims, I would expect to pay heavily.

What if on my application for the bar I proclaimed that I would use my law license to further the goals of an organization with a narrow philosophy? Would it make a difference if that group were the catholic church, the boy scouts, the NAACP, or the posse comitatus?

Assholes - whether racists, pedophiles, rapists, what have you - are entitled to legal representation.