Fifty-nine-year-old Cynthia Marie Rodgers got a JD from toilet law school Capital last May but was kept out of the bar for reasons of character and fitness. A panel of the Supreme Court of Ohio reached this conclusion for two reasons. The more colorful reason, which is also the first one cited, is her history of commencing dozens of lawsuits, many of them apparently frivolous if not vexatious, without knowing what she was doing. She committed the most rudimentary procedural errors and appears to have been pretty consistently unsuccessful. She seemed not to regret what the court found to be abuses of the legal system.
But the court invoked another reason: "Outstanding Debts" (pages 7–9). Allow me to quote the court (pages 8–9):
The applicant and her husband have amassed almost $900,000 in student loan debt. Although the applicant expressed that she does not have any idea how much she has borrowed, it appears that her share of this amount is about $340,000. The applicant testified that she and her husband consolidated their loans and that they are on a "percentage of income" plan, "so we'll just always pay a percentage of our income for the rest of our lives." The applicant explained the percentage of income plan as a 25 year plan, and after 25 years any remaining amount is forgiven, although it may become taxable income.
The applicant did not know what the percentage of her income was that she would be required to pay under the percentage of income plan, but "right now it's zero because of my income being so low. Once your income hits $20,000 then payments start kicking in." The applicant stated that her husband is not paying any money on the loan now either because he is "semi-retired" and "filing for disability." The applicant had no idea how much she borrowed to attend law school, or the total amount of her student loan debt. She stated that she is disabled … and is not able to work a forty-hour week. The applicant stated that "if they are willing to have me on that payment plan, then if I win the lottery then they get it. Once I became disabled * * * I knew there was no way for twenty years that I would ever be able to pay all that back." The applicant indicated that if she becomes a lawyer she intends to work part-time for legal aid.
Further (page 11):
She has openly neglected financial responsibilities, and knowingly incurred a substantial amount of student loan debt that she admits will probably never be repaid.…
The conduct described above represents an ongoing lack of integrity, abuse of process and neglect of financial responsibility.
Ms. Rodgers is eligible to try again in 2024, when she will be 64 years old. Evidently the public will be stung for about a million dollars for the sake of university education that Ms. Rodgers and her husband seem unlikely ever to use. Insouciant even of the amount of her debt or of the monthly payments, and reportedly marked with bad credit for unpaid debts that ended up being written off, she was nonetheless allowed to rack up more than a third of a million dollars in student loans.
At least the court has declined to admit to the legal profession someone so unconcerned about laws, obligations, and the interests of others. And it has labeled the accumulation of unpayable debt, including student loans, as "neglect of financial responsibility" sufficient to keep one out of the bar. How many more people with mountains of student loans will find themselves excluded from the legal profession for similar reasons?