Tuesday, November 21, 2023
The Ohio Supreme Court has disapproved an application to sit for the bar examination of a University of Akron law graduate
During his character-and-fitness hearing, Cline testified that his OVI offense occurred after he attended a Halloween party in 2021. He had been drinking more heavily than usual in the weeks leading up to the OVI offense due to the ending of a three-year relationship. Cline claimed that he had recognized that he had a problem and had sought counseling even before he received the OVI citation. As a result of the OVI offense, Cline attended an alcohol-diversion class through a court-ordered diversion program. He reported that he had stopped using marijuana and had worked on “drastically reducing [his] drinking.”
He participated but did not fully comply with the Bar's OLAP ("Ohio Lawyers Assistance Program") program
Cline tested positive for alcohol on December 26, 2022—two months to the day after he entered into his OLAP contract. He told the panel that he “slipped up” by drinking “a couple [of] beers” with his family, some of whom were completely unaware of his OLAP contract, when they gathered for the first time following the death of his grandfather. The panel noted that Cline had acknowledged that he should not have violated his OLAP contract.
Cline testified that as a result of his noncompliance with his contract due to his December 26 positive test, OLAP suggested in late January or early February 2023 that he enter an intensive outpatient therapy program (“IOP”). He entered the program in late February or early March, attending IOP meetings four days a week and individual counseling every other week. OLAP also required him to attend three AA meetings per week. Cline testified that he is engaged in his IOP and compliant with the requirements of the OLAP contract, but he admitted that, at best, he had been compliant for just a few weeks before his character-and-fitness hearing. Although Cline testified that he had submitted proof of his AA attendance to OLAP, OLAP has denied receiving any documentation regarding either his AA attendance or his participation in the IOP—and consequently has deemed him not in compliance with his OLAP contract as of March 31, 2023.
In this case, Cline’s OVI offense occurred during his second year of law school. And as part of the admissions process, the board requested that he undergo an OLAP assessment in October 2022, during his final semester of law school. Cline complied with that request and entered into an OLAP contract, but according to his own testimony, he failed to comply with the terms of that contract for nearly five months. Moreover, he failed to submit evidence of his eventual compliance to OLAP—and also to the board as it sought to determine whether he was fit to sit for the Ohio bar exam. Given these facts, we agree that Cline has failed to establish by clear and convincing evidence that he currently possesses the requisite character, fitness, and moral qualifications for admission to the practice of law in Ohio.
Accordingly, we disapprove Cline’s pending application to take the Ohio bar exam and will permit him to reapply for the bar exam no earlier than December 1, 2023. Upon submitting a new application to take the bar exam, Cline shall be required to submit documentation of his full compliance with his OLAP contract.