Thursday, June 30, 2005
Investigating Bar Applicants Who File Bankruptcy
Students sometimes ask me about how their credit/debt status may impact the character and fitness determination when they apply to the bar. Specifically, "What about the fact that I declared bankruptcy a few years ago?"
In a 2003 article appearing in The Bar Examiner, Bruce Long, the Florida Bar Examiners Director of Investigations, explored the subject of the impact of a bankruptcy filing on an applicant's character and fitness determination.
Since 1992, the Florida Board has denied admission of those applicants who have filed for bankruptcy protection only when fraud or misrepresentation is discovered.
Why 1992? That's when the Florida Supreme Court overturned the Board's adverse recommendation regarding the application of "S.M.D.," who had declared bankruptcy, discharging both credit card debts and family loans. This, the Board had ruled, "demonstrated financial irresponsibility" in that she had "purchased goods and services on credit beyond her ability to repay in a timely manner." The Board also determined the applicant had disregarded her moral obligation (to repay) and included a false statement on her petition.
The court, finding "little or no dispute over the relevant facts," nevertheless did not "believe that her decision to declare bankruptcy was morally reprehensible." Florida Board of Bar Examiners re S.M.D., 609 So. 2d 1309, 1312 (Fla. 1992).
More on bankruptcy when I post next. Stay tuned. (djt)