Reversing a decision by the attorney fitness board in Georgia, the court on Feb. 28 found that Marilyn Ringstaff established that she had the integrity and fitness to be a member of the state bar.
Ringstaff graduated from John Marshall Law School in 2006.
“It doesn’t make that much difference to me at this point,” Ringstaff said by telephone on March 2, adding that she did not have time to study for the bar exam now. “I just hope the [Georgia] Supreme Court will look more closely at fitness board decisions.”
Ringstaff, who is nurse practitioner, represented herself in a minor traffic accident trial while she was a first-year law student, according to the decision. She was found guilty and ordered to pay a $250 fine. An appeals court affirmed.
When she mailed the payment to the court, she included a note with a smiley face that said, “Keep the change — put into a police/judicial education fund. I am now a second-year law student and can honestly relate to what a crooked and inequitable system of justice we have.”
She also wrote: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
During the application process, a hearing officer recommended that Ringstaff be allowed to take the exam, but the Board to Determine Fitness of Bar Applicants disagreed. The board was particularly concerned about statements that it said she made during an informal interview.
According to the board, Ringstaff had said that “every police officer lies.”
When asked about her claim on appeal of ineffective assistance of counsel, Ringstaff said, “I did not know the law at the time and I should have — the judge should, I believe, have asked me if I needed to take a break and get counsel.”
The court’s per curiam ruling rejected the board’s finding and granted Ringstaff a certificate of fitness to practice law. “Ms. Ringstaff established that she possesses the integrity and character required to be a member of the State Bar of Georgia,” the judges wrote.
Contact Leigh Jones at email@example.com.