Legal Ethics

Law Grad with No Plan to Repay Debt Fails Character and Fitness Mandate, Ohio Top Court Says


Ohio State University law grad Hassan Jonathan Griffin of Columbus, Ohio, has a part-time job in the public defender’s office and no feasible plan to repay his law-school and credit-card debt.

That combination means Griffin has so far failed to satisfy the character and fitness qualification to get a law license, the Ohio Supreme Court has ruled. The opinion (PDF) upholds a recommendation by the Supreme Court’s Board of Commissioners on Character and Fitness.

Griffin had $170,000 in student-loan debt and $16,500 in credit-card debt. He earns $12 an hour at his part-time job with the PD.

“We accept the board’s findings of fact and conclude that the applicant has neglected his personal financial obligations by electing to maintain his part-time employment with the Public Defender’s Office in the hope that it will lead to a full-time position upon passage of the bar exam, rather than seeking full-time employment,” the opinion says.

Griffin will be able to reapply, however, for another bar exam, in February 2011 or later, and he may submit a new character-and-fitness application, the opinion says.

Above the Law is outraged by the decision. “What the hell kind of legal education system are we running where we charge people more than they can afford to get a legal education, and then prevent them from being lawyers because they can’t pay off their debts?” the blog asks. “If Griffin can’t pass C&F, Ohio might as well say that half of the recent graduates in the state don’t have the ‘character and fitness’ to be a lawyer.”

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