Constitutional Law

Law Grad Who Dissed Courts Loses Appeal Over Denied Law License

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Updated: A federal appeals court has tossed a civil rights and First Amendment claim filed by a law graduate who claims he was denied a law license because of his disdain for the Michigan justice system and his complaints about members of a bar and fitness committee who mentioned his views in a report.

The Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled (PDF) the claim by Frank Lawrence Jr. could not be pursued in federal courts.

Lawrence had told interviewers with the Michigan bar’s character and fitness committee that he had little respect for the state court system, and federal courts are the guardians of the Constitution. He also operated a website called StateBarWatch that criticized the State Bar of Michigan and the State Board of Law Examiners.

The committee recommended that Lawrence be denied a law license. “We are concerned about providing a law license to someone who, even before he has handled his first case as a member of the bar, has effectively written off such a huge component of the justice system,” it wrote.

Lawrence later contacted the employers of the committee members to complain, but it did no good. Law examiners accepted the committee’s recommendation. Lawrence then requested a hearing, and examiners questioned him about the employer contacts. They went on to affirm the denial of the law license.

The 6th Circuit said Lawrence’s First Amendment claim was a direct attack on a state court judgment that was barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. It also said state officials involved in the license denial had immunity from Lawrence’s civil rights claims.

The blog How Appealing comments: “It is too early to tell whether today’s ruling will cause the plaintiff to dislike the federal judicial system almost as much as he apparently dislikes Michigan’s state court system.”

For his part, Lawrence tells in an e-mail that he wasn’t surprised at the 6th Circuit decision due to the makeup of the panel. He plans to seek certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court. “I have faith in the Supreme Court, and in particular Justice John Paul Stevens, who is the true guardian of our constitutional rights,” he says.

Lawrence says he holds the Michigan court system in low regard because a majority of Michigan Supreme Court justices have been hostile to civil rights plaintiffs. He says he doesn’t regret answering truthfully when the character and fitness committee asked about his political beliefs, and he would do it again.

In the meantime, Lawrence is employed by his lawyer, Dennis Dubuc, “who has dedicated his law practice to helping the underdogs of society,” Lawrence says.

Updated at 8 p.m. on 06-05-2008 to add comments from Lawrence and at 11 a.m. on 06-06-2008 to include information about Lawrence’s complaints to employers of members of the character and fitness committee.

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