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A law graduate who finally passed the bar exam after eight attempts nevertheless will remain without a license to practice, partly because he pretended to be a robber on April Fool’s day. The Supreme Court of New Hampshire on Jan. 26 ruled that the 1992 law school graduate was ineligible for admission because of his criminal record and because he had not repaid nearly $140,000 in student loans. Especially persuasive to the court was that the applicant had pulled a seven-inch knife on a store clerk in 1993 while, as he explained, he was “pretending to be a robber.” The court determined that the applicant, identified only as “G.W.,” lacked the character and fitness required for admission to practice. “In light of the applicant’s continuing pattern of irresponsibility, we do not conclude that he has demonstrated a genuine change of attitude,” Justice Carol Ann Conboy wrote for the court. The New Hampshire Supreme Court does not identify the names of bar applicants in its decisions. Beginning in 1991, G.W. applied for the bar exam in New Hampshire seven times, according to court records. Each time, he reported criminal convictions to the New Hampshire Supreme Court Character and Fitness Committee, which included a reckless conduct conviction for the April Fool’s day incident and convictions for driving while intoxicated and restraining order violations. In February 2008, on his eighth attempt, he passed the bar exam. After the Character and Fitness Committee raised concerns about his application, he requested a hearing. In 2009, a hearing committee delivered a negative report. It cited G.W.’s history of criminal acts, his financial irresponsibility and his inability to handle his own affairs. The finding noted that at the time he requested the hearing, he was living with his mother and was working part-time in her motel in lieu of paying rent. He briefly held two jobs as a bartender but quit because he felt they were beneath him, the report found. Other than the motel job, the bartender jobs and a position as a waiter in 1996, G.W. had not been employed since graduating from law school almost 20 years ago. In response to questions at the hearing about his failure to pay back his student loans, he responded, “If I owed a measly $30,000, that’s an amount that certainly could be paid off with a, you know, $10 an hour job or something of that nature.” He continued, “But because there’s $120,000 worth of interest on that $30,000 principal, realistically, I need a good job in order to pay that off. I was trained to practice law; I wasn’t trained to do anything else. I have no desire to do anything else at this point.” As for his criminal convictions, G.W. argued that he lacked intent to commit those crimes. He called the April Fool’s incident “a bad joke.” He explained that he was writing a book at the time and wanted to see how the store clerk would react to seeing the knife. He said that he ran afoul of a restraining order pertaining to contact with a female because he tried to reach her, believing that she was in danger. The court denied a request by G.W.’s attorney, Patrick Hayes, for his client’s admission on probationary status. “We do not believe any conditions could adequately safeguard the public,” Conboy wrote. “[T]he record reflects an individual with a long history of evading his financial obligations, as well as failing to accept responsibility for the consequences of his poor judgment and criminal behavior. We see no evidence that, as an attorney, the applicant would conduct himself any differently.” Concurring in the decision were justices Linda Dalianis, James Duggan and Gary Hicks. Hayes, with Baker & Hayes in Lebanon, N.H., did not respond to requests for comment. James DeHart was general counsel for the Supreme Court of New Hampshire Character and Fitness Committee. He declined to comment on the decision. Contact Leigh Jones at [email protected].

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