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Law School Case Brief

Fla. Bd. of Bar Exam'rs Re S.M.D. - 609 So. 2d 1309 (Fla. 1992)

Rule:

It cannot be doubted that a lawyer who is constantly in debt is more likely to succumb to temptations to the detriment of his or her clients or the public. 

Facts:

Petitioner applicant sought admission into the Florida Bar. However, the Florida Bar (bar) recommended that petitioner's application be denied because she had recently filed for bankruptcy. The applicant filed a petition for review of the bar's recommendation.

Issue:

Was the applicant entitled to admission to the Florida Bar?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The Supreme Court of Florida ordered the applicant admitted to the bar. The court held that generally, it could not be doubted that a lawyer who was constantly in debt was more likely to succumb to temptations to the detriment of his or her clients or the public. However, the court held that the determination of whether the applicant should be admitted to the bar turned on whether the bankruptcy was done in a morally reprehensible fashion and demonstrated a disregard for her creditors. The court found that the bankruptcy was not done in a reprehensible fashion. The applicant did not file bankruptcy until after many failed attempts to pay her debts, most of which were incurred for support and to pay for her education, and she had been unsuccessful in finding employment. The evidence did not sufficiently demonstrate the financial irresponsibility necessary to preclude the applicant from admission to the bar.

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