According to an ABA Journal article, Ohio’s highest court has ruled law grad Hassan Jonathan Griffin of Columbus, Ohio failed to satisfy the “character and fitness qualification” requirements to be an attorney because he had no visible means to pay back his law school loans or credit card debt. Mr. Griffin works part-time in the public defender’s office, earning $12/hour. He has $170,000 in loan debt and $16,500 in credit card debt. Griffin provided information that he was remaining at his part-time job in the hopes that it would become a full-time position
To the Ohio Supreme Court, these facts rendered Griffin unfit to practice law based on low moral character. The opinion is downloaded to the Box for those who wish to review it.
Frankly, and I agree with the ABA writers, this decision is outrageous! In my opinion, this young man is being penalized for a legal education system that yokes its students with back-breaking student loan debt, often well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The fact that Griffin is working – whether part-time or full-time – in a public interest career ought to be encouraged, not be grounds for punishment or banishment. In fact, it is not at all unusual – instead, quite typical – for public interest jobs to be less than full-time at first, often working into more stable situations for those graduates that are able to stick it out. In the present economy, Griffin is not doing anything extraordinary – certainly not immoral – when you consider the many articles recommending volunteer work as a means to land a full-time job.
If Mr. Griffin has any further avenues available to him to pursue this matter, this author strongly encourages him to do so against what is truly an inequitable decision, one with far-reaching implications. For example, what if Mr. Griffin – like me – wanted to go directly into his own solo law practice, but lacked any clients at first. Would that evidence insufficient morals to practice law? If so, then can only the super rich, or super lucky, practice law in Ohio?