Saturday, July 4, 2009

Interlude 12. State-bar establishment: Pro bono for the banks

As the economic depression deepens so does political oppression, as the police are the instrument forcing an adverse orderliness on the enraged and impoverished. When banks today mount a collections' offensive against the public that financed their rescue, what role will lawyers play in helping the poor and indebted resist the onslaught? None if the state bars, specialized branches of the police-prosecutor apparatus, have their way. In three jurisdictions, the state bars have already disbarred or denied admission to lawyers for carrying excessive debt. For the state bars, indebtedness is moral turpitude!

In New York, appellate judges, who form part of that state's bar establishment, held Robert Bowman ineligible to obtain a law license for reason of moral character, that reason being specifically: "Applicant has not made any substantial payments on the loans. ... Applicant has not presently established the character and general fitness requisite for an attorney and counselor-at-law." Bowman had incurred the typical huge debt to finance law school and then experienced medical adversity, impairing his ability to work and adding much more debt.

In another case, a Texas lawyer was disbarred for defaulting on his student loan; the court opined that Frank Santulli III's nonpayment showed his untrustworthiness to represent clients and raised the specter that "he will harm a client, obstruct administration of justice or violate the disciplinary rules." To make no mistake on where the bar stands on indebtedness, the Texas State Bar had conditioned Santulli's license on paying his debt. A news report informs that the Texas case isn't isolated: Minnesota had already disbarred an attorney for student-loan default.

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