FBI, Lawyers Group Exchanged Information on Bar Applicants

Associated Press

The FBI and a prominent lawyers’ group secretly exchanged information about bar applicants for 40 years, including reports on their political beliefs and whether they took civil rights cases, according to newly disclosed FBI documents.

The National Law Journal, in an article to be published Monday, said the FBI demanded that its arrangement with the National Conference of Bar Examiners be “treated as strictly confidential.”

In Washington, FBI Special Agent Jeffrey Maynard said Saturday that he was not aware of the article and had no comment.

The documents, obtained by the National Lawyers Guild after bringing suit against the federal government, showed that the FBI had a similar arrangement with at least two local bar character committees--in Manhattan and in the District of Columbia, according to the article.


The conference, a private group, helps state and local bar associations investigate the character of bar applicants. The conference in 1976 said that it no longer would make “routine” requests for FBI information, according to the documents.

However, an FBI memo dated the next day said: “Liaison channels between the Bureau and NCBE remain open concerning matters of mutual interest.”

The arrangement reportedly began in 1936 under the late J. Edgar Hoover.

Information the FBI gave to the conference included whether bar applicants criticized Supreme Court decisions, supported labor unions or attended guild meetings.


The guild, formed by lawyers who split from the American Bar Assn., was accused in the 1940s and 1950s of sympathizing with communists.