Court says convicted lawyer unfit to practice law

By Lynne Tuohy
Associated Press / January 26, 2011

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CONCORD, N.H.—The New Hampshire Supreme Court has made it clear that not everyone who passes the bar exam gets to practice law.

The court on Wednesday denied the appeal of a would-be lawyer who was shot down by its Committee on Character and Fitness.

The applicant-- identified in the ruling only by the initials G.W. --admitted it was a "bad joke" to pretend to be an armed robber at a North Conway convenience store on April Fool's Day. He's also been convicted of drunk driving, violating a restraining order and criminal threatening and has more than $130,000 in delinquent student loans.

When asked for positive traits, G.W. told the committee it was "an amazing accomplishment" that he passed the bar exam in 2008 after 20 years and seven unsuccessful attempts.

According to the court's ruling, G.W.'s only jobs over the past 20 years were brief stints as a bartender in 2008 and as a waiter in 2006.

"I didn't enjoy the service business. I felt it was beneath me," G.W. told the committee.

He told the committee the six convictions for violating a restraining order stemmed from his having been "framed" by his former girlfriend.

He is appealing a second drunk driving conviction and faces charges of driving under suspension. He also has charges pending of attempted fraud and making false statements under oath related to court documents he filed in a foreclosure matter.

G.W.'s lawyer, Patrick Hayes, had asked the justices to allow his client to practice law on a probationary basis and be mentored by an experienced lawyer. The court denied that request, saying, "We do not believe any conditions could adequately safeguard the public."

"Taken as a whole, the record reflects an individual with a long history of evading his financial obligations, as well as failing to take responsibility for the consequences of his poor judgment and criminal behavior," Justice Carol Ann Conboy wrote in the court's unanimous ruling. "We see no evidence that, as an attorney, the applicant would conduct himself any differently."