Ohio Supreme Court Denies Law License for Grad with $170,000 in Student Loans.

Law School Tuition

Are Student Loans a Trap?

In a headline that looks like it could be strait from the Onion (except that lay-people wouldn’t get the joke) ABC News reported on the story of Hassan Jonathan Griffin who was recently denied permission to sit for the Ohio bar based on his student loan debt. 

So, can too much student loan debt keep you from being a lawyer?  Apparently, the answer is yes; if you don’t have a realistic plan to pay it back. (And, you were in My Cousin Vinny’s law class).   

I have been noticing a disturbing trend among several states’ bars.  In the last month, both Ohio and New Hampshire failed candidates on their character and fitness evaluation based—at least in part—on having too much student loan debt. 

Last year, New York refused to license a guy who finally passed the bar on his fourth try because his student loans were too big, and his efforts to repay them were too small.  He owed more than $400,000.  The New York appellate panel concluded:

“Applicant has not made any substantial payments on the loans. . .. [He] has not presently established the character and general fitness requisite for an attorney and counselor-at-law.”

The Ohio Supreme Court (click here for the opinion) denied Hassan Jonathan Griffin because he didn’t have a plan to repay his $170,000 student loan.  The Court seemed to be offended by the fact that Griffin had maintained a part-time law job instead of taking full time work:

“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, which he acknowledges would give him a better opportunity to pay his obligations and possibly qualify him for an additional deferment of his student-loan obligation.” 

Most recently, New Hampshire has joined the fray also considering student debt in a recent opinion that—as it turns out—is Onion worthy.  I’m serious.  You have to read about this guy (click here for the opinion).  The New Hampshire Supreme Court stated:

In concluding its report, the Committee stated, “[The applicant]’s inability to responsibly deal with his personal financial obligations, his inability to accept responsibility for his criminal conduct, and his practice of placing blame on other individuals or events for his conduct, are all indicative of his inability to responsibly deal with his own affairs.” With respect to his financial problems, the Committee stated that it “does not believe that [the applicant] has made any type of sincere attempt to find employment during the last 20 years that would allow him to make payments on this loan obligation.” Moreover, the Committee found that, “[r]egardless of which excuse [the applicant] puts forth for his conduct, it was clear to the Committee that [the applicant] does not accept  esponsibility for any of his criminal acts.”

We appreciate that the applicant, as his counsel recounts, has overcome mental and physical difficulties. However, taken as a whole, the record reflects an individual with a long history of evading his financial obligations, as well as failing to accept responsibility for the consequences of his poor judgment and criminal behavior. We see no evidence that, as an attorney, the applicant would conduct himself any differently.

While these three prospective lawyers are not the norm, you should take note and make sure to stay current on your monumental student debt, or you just may find yourself in their company.

255 Responses to “Ohio Supreme Court Denies Law License for Grad with $170,000 in Student Loans.”

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