Ellis, Chesebro and Powell have all asked the court to state their crimes were not ones of “moral turpitude”. What is the significance of that expression and why is it so important to them?

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    You might want to read the Wikipedia article (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_turpitude). The origin of this is immigration law (in particular, the Immigration and Naturalization Act).
    – Flydog57
    Oct 25, 2023 at 14:01
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    @Flydog57 I read that. But the three who asked for the wording are natural born US citizens as far as I know.
    – Simd
    Oct 25, 2023 at 14:21
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    @Simd right in the Wikipedia article: "offenses involving moral turpitude may be grounds to deny or revoke state professional licenses such as teaching credentials, applications for public notary,[5] licenses to practice law,[6] or other licensed professions."
    – RonJohn
    Oct 25, 2023 at 16:13
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    @Flydog57 the phrase "moral turpitude" and the concept it represents had existed for at least two centuries before the US started passing immigration law, which was in turn around a century before the INA came into being.
    – phoog
    Oct 26, 2023 at 3:22

1 Answer 1


In many states, conviction (or a guilty plea) to a crime of moral turpitude is automatic disbarment. At a minimum, these lawyers would face hearings and their licenses, and livelihoods, would be at risk. Wikipedia.

One's licence would still be at risk if convicted of crimes short of moral turpitude — it just would not be automatic disbarment in those states.

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    FWIW, crimes of moral turpitude also impair eligibility for other licenses like liquor licenses and gambling establishment licenses.
    – ohwilleke
    Oct 25, 2023 at 15:00
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    @ohwilleke The idea of these lawyers switching over to owning a liquor store is droll. Surely that's what Rudy Giuliani wants to do. Oct 25, 2023 at 16:58
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    @AndrewLazarus Liquor license != liquor store. Investing in a fine dining restaurant sounds plausible. Trump's hotels have them. An owner convicted of a crime of moral turpitude is a reason to deny a liquor license, and a fancy restaurant without one will not survive. Even something like a golf course or bowling alley is likely to have a bar and I can think off the top of my head several burrito stores and pizza places that serve beer.
    – user71659
    Oct 25, 2023 at 17:55
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    I think there's an implicit assertion here that casual readers might not understand. Lawyers are generally held to a much higher standard when it comes to adherence to law and especially to these kinds of implicit laws. In casual terms, the "I'm a dumbass" defense is not something lawyers are able to use without claiming they are incapable of being lawyers.
    – JimmyJames
    Oct 25, 2023 at 21:25
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    @ohwilleke: For that matter, such crimes can also affect the licensure of a bail bondsman like Scott Hall, who also pled guilty in the same case and received a similar stipulation from the DA. Oct 26, 2023 at 17:45

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