SAN FRANCISCO -- Lawyers convicted of child pornography charges will automatically be disbarred and prohibited from practicing law in California, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

Deciding the fate of an Orange County lawyer whose license was suspended after he pleaded guilty to having child porn at his home, the court said that keeping sexual images of children constitutes an act of moral turpitude that makes an attorney unfit for the legal profession.

"The knowing possession of child pornography is a serious breach of the duties of respect and care that all adults owe to all children, and it shows such a flagrant disrespect for the law and for societal norms, that continuation of a convicted attorney's State Bar membership would be likely to undermine public confidence in and respect for the legal profession," Justice Carol Corrigan wrote in the opinion.

The unanimous ruling came in the case of Gary Douglass Grant, a former Army lawyer at the Los Alamitos Army Reserve Base in Orange County. Grant pleaded guilty to one count of knowingly possessing child pornography in 2009 after sheriff's deputies found videos and photographs of underage girls mixed in with a large adult pornography collection on his computers and data discs.

The chief trial counsel and a hearing judge for the State Bar of California called for his disbarment. But a bar appeals board determined that whether a child pornography conviction represents moral turpitude and therefore grounds for disbarment depends on the circumstances of the case.

Relying in part on Grant's contention that he was a "recovering sex and love addict" but had acquired the images of children accidentally and tried to delete them, the review board recommended that Grant only be suspended from law for two years.

The Supreme Court is the body with authority to disbar lawyers, so the bar court asked the justices to weigh in.

"Grant pleaded guilty to the felony of knowingly possessing child pornography. His guilty plea establishes those facts as a matter of law," Corrigan wrote in revoking Grant's license for life. "The only question here is whether that crime, as admitted by him, constitutes moral turpitude per se. It does."