A heartening decision this week from a New York State court, which denied a middle-aged professional debtor (my opinion) admission to the bar.
A recent story in the New York Times reported the latest denial to Robert Bowman, a fortysomething law graduate who has also been beset by various medical problems and who is reportedly in debt to the tune of nearly one-half million dollars. For more helpful and informative background, check out this July 2009 New York Times article.
Debt as an isolated factor should not automatically bar candidates from the bar. There are some candidates who are beset by accidents or other misfortunes, and there are mitigating factors to consider appropriately. However, the history of this one particular candidate suggests that he is a "layabout" who reportedly has engaged in plenty of leisure time between his various injuries and his other, further educational pursuits. This suggests irresponsibility more than bad luck or victimization. A neutral trier of fact should be able to distinguish legitimate instances of misfortune from the cases of people who are trying to "game the system" with every sort of excuse. The latter type -- which Bowman appears to be -- are the people whom, in my opinion and that of the judges, give the legal profession a black eye.
There is little doubt that the New York court found there were too many excuses in Mr. Bowman's case. While our society has become largely desensitized to debt, at some point debt becomes a telling indicator of a serious character flaw and a failure to either accept responsibility or be responsible, and even a disrespect for the obligations members of society should respect amongst one another. This behavior can be construed as contempt for the very rule of law itself.
New York's courts have upheld the rule of law and worked to reaffirm the public's faith in the legal profession. Mr. Bowman needs to show a little character and responsibility, perhaps for the very first time in his adult life.