Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Captain Hook And Peter Pan

The Idaho Supreme Court has denied an application for bar admission but will permit reapplication in two years

The Idaho State Bar has filed a petition with this Court requesting permission to reject a bar application from “John Doe” and seeking an order prohibiting him from filing future applications for either (1) a period of five years, or (2) until the applicant receives written permission from this Court. Doe filed a response and cross-petition seeking immediate admission to the Idaho State Bar (the “ISB”). For the reasons explained below, we deny the ISB’s request to impose a five-year ban on Doe filing future applications and, instead, impose an alternative remedy. However, we grant the ISB’s petition in part, concluding that it is not required to process Doe’s third application, which was filed just 36 days after the denial of his second application became final, because Doe has failed to show a substantial change in his fitness and character from the two prior denials for admission. For these same reasons, we deny Doe’s cross-petition for admission.


Doe is 34 years old and a May 2019 graduate of Concordia University School of Law, in Boise, Idaho. In July 2019, he applied for admission to the Delaware State Bar Association after passing the Delaware Bar Examination. A passing score is a prerequisite in Delaware to apply for admission. Although Doe received a passing score on the exam, Delaware denied his application on character and fitness grounds.

Doe then applied to take the Idaho Bar Exam twice and was denied both times. The ISB cited character and fitness grounds as the basis for both denials. A little over a month after the second denial, Doe applied a third time, without showing any substantial change in circumstances.

He initiated litigation

Doe filed three lawsuits in the United States District Court for the District of Idaho against the ISB, the Board of Commissioners of the ISB (“the Board”), certain personnel of the ISB, and others, primarily raising constitutional and ADA claims. [Doe] v. Idaho State Bar, No. 1:22-cv00090-REP (D. Idaho March 1, 2022) (hereinafter “Doe I”); [Doe] v. Idaho State Bar, No. 4:22-cv-00253-REP (D. Idaho June 19, 2022) (hereinafter “Doe II”); [Doe] v. Idaho State Bar, No. 1:22-cv-00478-REP (D. Idaho Nov. 19, 2022) (hereinafter “Doe III”). He has also filed federal litigation in Delaware to raise constitutional challenges to certain attorney admission requirements of the Delaware Bar after being denied admission on character and fitness grounds. [Doe] v. Seitz, No. 1:21-CV-01637 (D. Del. Nov. 22, 2021).

Delaware inquiry into character and fitness

The investigation revealed multiple instances of omitted records and disclosures. These omissions included the following: the suspension of Doe’s security guard license; his participation in administrative hearings; various employment terminations and Doe’s troubles maintaining steady employment; disciplinary incidents and behavioral problems at multiple educational institutions; and Doe’s efforts to hide the fact that he “committed fraud” in claiming unemployment benefits while working a summer job. The investigation also reported a 2009 incident Doe had at a technical college in Delaware where, as part of a class practicing listening skills, he said, “I want to talk about how I think about hurting people. I can’t stop thinking about ways to hurt people that have hurt me. I think about it so much that I can’t sleep."

Idaho application

In the case of Doe’s application, the Committee recommended, and the Board agreed, that Doe failed to prove he was qualified for and entitled to admission to legal practice in Idaho under multiple eligibility requirements listed under Idaho Bar Commission Rules 201 and 210(a)(3). This was due in large part to Doe’s application omitting information of past misconduct and misstating his history, as he had in his Delaware application. These events include, but are not limited to:
• Doe’s failure to disclose to the ISB that the Delaware Board of Bar Examiners denied his bar application on character and fitness grounds.
• While employed by Delaware Animal Care and Control in 2011, Doe used the agency’s access to a criminal justice database to perform unauthorized searches of individuals. This conduct resulted in his termination. Doe initially reported to the ISB that he was terminated due to “downsizing,” but later explained that he had “cherry picked” the explanation that “portrayed him in the most favorable light.”
• Doe was terminated from another job with a security company in 2012 after misusing company equipment and “inappropriately engaging a troublemaker by challenging him to ‘meet up after work.’ ” Doe failed to disclose this termination.
• In 2015, Doe was terminated from his employment with the Delaware Office of Animal Welfare after an inappropriate interaction with a female coworker where, in his own words, Doe “made a sexual comment about ‘blowing;’ ” and “made inappropriate commentary about another employee’s sex life.” Doe later filed a lawsuit against this employer for discrimination and retaliation.

• In 2015, Doe illegally collected unemployment benefits in Delaware while employed, by continuously reporting income “that was close to, but never exceeded the cap on earnings that would trigger a reduction in [Doe’s] unemployment insurance benefits.” He challenged the Delaware Department of Labor’s determinations on this matter at each stage by personally “attacking the decision-maker,” filing a civil rights action against the decisionmaker “based upon the manner in which she treated him during the appeals hearing,” and accusing a federal judge of “misstating evidence” to benefit the opposing party.
• When engaged in litigation against the Delaware Department of Labor’s referee, Doe proceeded to have default entered against the referee even though he knew she had not been properly served. He later argued before the federal district court, the appellate circuit court, and in his petition for en banc review, that service was properly effectuated, repeating false statements to each tribunal.
• Doe initially failed to disclose that he had been a party to civil suits he filed against Delaware Animal Care and Control and the administrative proceedings concerning his unemployment benefits.
• Doe failed to disclose a 2014 incident in Delaware where he was disciplined at Wilmington University and placed on probation.
• Doe failed to disclose several informal investigations into his conduct by Concordia Law School between 2016 and 2019, including an incident of vandalism to his study carrel he committed by affixing a memorial plaque to the carrel outlining “highlights” of his academic career at Concordia and describing himself as “Concordia’s Original Overzealous Objector.” The plaque falsely listed several academic awards that Doe never received.


In addition to this frivolous litigation, Doe filed a complaint with Delaware’s attorney discipline authorities (the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, “ODC”) against his then-attorney, John Brady. The complaint was dismissed by ODC attorney Jennifer Aaronson, who “found that the complaint did not warrant discipline.” In response, Doe then filed a disciplinary complaint against Aaronson. Doe later summarized his own actions:

when then ODC Counsel Jennifer-Kate Aaronson was kind enough to call me—as a courtesy—to tell me why she was dismissing the complaint against Mr. Brady, I became very hostile to her, told her she was lazy, corrupt, and incompetent, and then hung up on her. I then proceeded to file an ODC complaint against her because I did not agree with the statements she made to the court.

His multiple Idaho application proceedings - and his communications with and about bar officials - is recounted in detail.

The court here

while this is an unusual petition—with equally unique forms of relief sought by both the ISB and Doe—this Court has inherent constitutional authority to address and resolve these issues, particularly as concerns Doe’s present eligibility to practice law in Idaho.


In the proceeding currently before this Court, Doe has continued to demonstrate an inability to be honest and candid by incorrectly representing the results obtained in his federal litigation against the Bar. For example, he claimed that “the federal court forced the schoolyard bullies [the Board] to finally issue a decision” on his second application, when, in fact, Doe was never granted any declaratory or injunctive relief from the federal court...

We conclude that there is substantial evidence indicating Doe’s continued inability to be honest and candid with clients, lawyers, courts, the Board, and others as required under Idaho Bar Commission Rule 201(a). Accordingly, Doe has failed to prove eligibility under Idaho Bar Commission Rule 201(a).


This conduct has continued as Doe persists in exhibiting the exact behavior summarized by Justice Horton in reviewing Doe’s first application: a “pattern of demonizing those who make decisions adverse to his interests. He ascribes improper motivations, ethical lapses, and ineptitude to such individuals.” For example, in his cross-petition in this action, Doe made inappropriate statements impugning the integrity and professionalism of members of this Court, further demonstrating an ongoing pattern of attacking decision makers. In this case, he did so even before they rendered a decision.

Doe specifically accused one justice of improper conduct in another proceeding in which Doe had no involvement, stating that the justice’s comments to counsel during a particular oral argument rose “to the level of heated gratuitous–insults [sic] where [he] proceeded to passionately rail against [an attorney’s] conduct.” (Emphasis in original)...

Of particular concern are his tendencies to use unprofessional language and aim reckless attacks at attorneys and judges involved in both his state and federal lawsuits. Thus, he has failed to prove eligibility under this prong.

Disregard for the rights of others

Being disrespectful, rude, petty, defamatory, or vindictive does not constitute “reasonable advocacy” or ethical conduct. Doe’s conduct and language have consistently shown a lack of civility, extreme unprofessionalism, and a level of vindictiveness that goes beyond mere zeal. Such behavior indicates that Doe is in desperate need of correction, not commendation.

For example, Doe’s personal email communications with Bar Counsel and the Board are equally overzealous, inappropriate, and, at times, bizarre. For example, Doe has made statements like: “I am not about to let your evil and wickedness (as well as your dishonesty) change the person I am.” In one late night email, Doe stated:

You need to learn by this point that I am not just going to walk away like all the others you guys screw over; you are not going to get rid of me no matter how hard you try. I will be around for many years to come to grace you with my presence and keep you guys in check. Deep down, Joe [Bar Counsel], you know your life would be boring without me in it. You are like Captain Hook I am your Peter Pan.

This email is surprisingly similar to a statement Doe made in an earlier show cause hearing, when he described former Dean Ben Cramer of Concordia Law School as Captain Hook: “the wonderful memories I have of that law school, it’s like Neverland and he’s Captain Hook. He’s a necessary evil, and the story wouldn’t be the same without him.”

The record also demonstrates that Doe too often crafts his arguments in a religious light, and with a troubling tendency to literally “demonize those who make decisions adverse to his interests.” For example, in his briefing before this Court, Doe repeatedly described the Board’s actions, personnel, and decisions as “evil and wickedness,” “evil people,” “twisted,” “immoral,” and accused them of “cruel, wicked, and antagonizing ad-hominem attacks.” This tendency is also present in one of Doe’s recent emails:

Since I moved back to Idaho in June of 2021, I chose to dedicate my life to Christ and become baptized and I am a child of the King. I am not scared of you guys, I am not flustered by your bullying, and I am not about to let your evil and wickedness (as well as your dishonesty) change the person I am. It is so twisted because I am a person of paramount character and integrity and I am being blocked from my calling by persons who are (by all objective evidence available to me) immoral people who are trying to keep me out of my calling by trying to allege—falsely—that I lack requisite moral character and fitness.

In short, we find that the pattern of “demonizing” behavior found by Justice Horton three years ago persists in Doe’s conduct today. Accordingly, we conclude that Doe’s conduct continues to exhibit a disregard for the rights and welfare of others. He has failed to establish this eligibility requirement under Idaho Bar Commission Rule 201(f)

Request for immediate admission denied

Doe’s previously denied admissions were based on his conduct and moral fitness to practice law, not his pursuit of a redress of grievances in federal court. The ISB has an obligation to determine whether an applicant is fit to practice law in the state of Idaho, and that includes examining an applicant’s speech insofar as it is demonstrative of his eligibility to practice law in this state. This petition was filed in furtherance of that obligation and is not an infringement on Doe’s free speech. In sum, if Doe wishes to become an Idaho lawyer, his fitness will continue to be judged by examining his conduct.

As to ISB's sought preclusive relief

In this instance, given Doe’s track record, we conclude that a reasonable period of rehabilitation is necessary for Doe to demonstrate a meaningful change in character and fitness, and to document his rehabilitation. Thus far, Doe has hardly allowed any time for rehabilitation, much less shown any demonstrable changes in his fitness to practice law. Indeed, as Doe has filed successive applications, the same character and fitness shortcomings have continued to occur and remain unaddressed. While we cannot say that five years is necessary to make such a showing, based on the totality of the circumstances before us, we conclude that two years may be sufficient. Accordingly, we hold that Doe may not submit a fourth application to sit for an Idaho bar examination for a period of two (2) years from the issuance of this Opinion. If Doe submits a fourth application, it remains his burden to demonstrate that he can meet the standards to practice law at that time pursuant to the Idaho Bar Commission Rules. It is our hope that by turning his focus to rehabilitation and accountability for a season, Doe can make this a reality.

(Mike Frisch)

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