For several years I chronicled the frustrating travails of aspiring lawyer Robert Bowman. He was the New York law student repeatedly turned down for membership in the bar by a panel of New York judges, who determined that he did not have the requisite good character to be admitted to the practice of law in New York because he owed nearly a half-million dollars in student loans. Not paying back financial commitments is one of the specific components of “moral turpitude,” which will block anyone from becoming a lawyer, though it will seldom get one kicked out of the profession after one becomes a lawyer. Go figure. The panel kept rejecting Bowman because they felt his debt was per se proof of irresponsible and negligent financial management, making him an unacceptable risk for any client.
A New York bar association subcommittee investigated, and concluded that far from being of dubious character, Bowman was an individual of “exceptional character,” with unusual perseverance, humility and tenacity. It strongly recommended him for admission to the New York Bar, despite the outstanding debts. Ireaclize now that I never told Ethics Alarms readers “the rest of the story”: Bowman is a New York lawyer now. He finally won his appeal, though the news media, which chronicled his failures, decided that his ultimate success wasn’t newsworthy.
How do I know this? Bowman contacted me himself to tell me. He said he was grateful to all the people who had supported his quest, and was telling each of them, individually, in person.
Now comes the story, also with a possible happy ending, of another frustrated lawyer-to-be with similar issues, this time in Ohio, although I must say that her circumstances seem a bit more difficult to excuse. Cynthia Marie Rodgers (above) is a Capital University School of Law graduate whose Ohio character and fitness application was rejected because she has nearly twice as much school loan debt as Bowman, almost $900,000. Continue reading