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In re Application of T. Z.-A.O.

Court of Appeals of Maryland

December 22, 2014

IN THE MATTER OF THE APPLICATION OF T. Z.-A. O. FOR ADMISSION TO THE BAR OF MARYLAND

Argued: November 6, 2014

Barbera, C.J. Harrell Battaglia Greene Adkins McDonald Watts, JJ.

WATTS, J.

In this case, we are asked to reconsider the denial of the application for admission to the Bar of Maryland of T. Z.-A. O. ("Movant"), [1] who: (1) has demonstrated a consistent pattern of financial irresponsibility; (2) completed and signed a car loan application which included false financial information and failed to include information about a recent bankruptcy; and (3) failed to disclose a prior arrest and conviction on his law school application. Both the Character Committee for the Fifth Appellate Circuit ("the Committee") and the State Board of Law Examiners ("the Board") recommended that Movant be denied admission to the Bar of Maryland.[2] For the below reasons, we agree that Movant has not demonstrated on this record that he currently possesses the requisite moral character and fitness for admission to the Bar of Maryland and deny Movant's request for reconsideration.[3]

BACKGROUND

On May 21, 2012, Movant filed with the Board an application for admission to the Bar of Maryland. On June 25, 2012, the Board forwarded the application to the Committee. Movant passed the July 2012 Maryland Bar Examination.

As a result of matters uncovered during the Committee's investigation, on June 10, 2013, a three-member panel of the Committee conducted a hearing to determine whether Movant possessed the good moral character and fitness necessary for admission to the Bar of Maryland. Movant appeared, represented by counsel, and testified. The panel also received into evidence twenty-five exhibits. On August 13, 2013, the panel issued a Report, unanimously recommending that Movant be denied admission to the Bar of Maryland. The panel made findings of fact, which we summarize.[4]

On May 22, 1996, in Columbus, Ohio, Movant was arrested for public indecency.[5]On July 12, 1996, Movant pled guilty to the offense and was sentenced to thirty days' incarceration, with one day credited toward the sentence.[6] The remaining twenty-nine days were suspended, on the condition that Movant not be convicted of any other crime during the next two years.

In 2004, Movant applied, and was accepted, to Tulane University Law School. Question 28(a) of the Tulane University Law School application asked: "[H]ave you ever been charged with, arrested for, convicted of, [or] pled guilty or nolo contendere for a violation of any law?" Despite certifying in the application that his responses were true, correct, and complete, Movant answered Question 28(a) in the negative.

Movant disclosed the 1996 arrest and conviction for public indecency on his application for admission to the Bar of Florida. Upon review of Movant's application, the Florida Board of Bar Examiners became aware that Movant had failed to disclose the arrest and conviction for public indecency on his law school application. The Florida Board of Bar Examiners informed Movant of the discrepancy. As a result, Movant notified Tulane University Law School that he had failed to disclose the arrest and conviction for public indecency on his application for admission.[7]

On May 10, 2004, a few months after applying to law school, Movant filed a voluntary petition for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. At the hearing, Movant admitted that his financial activities had been irresponsible, and included the use of multiple credit cards when he had no employment or other means to pay the balances. On August 18, 2004, Movant discharged $58, 000 in debt.

On August 25, 2006, Movant purchased a new Honda vehicle. According to Movant, he initially intended to purchase a used car, but sales personnel persuaded him to test-drive new vehicles and initiated the car loan application process for the purchase of a new vehicle. Movant signed the car loan application, as well as at least four additional contracts and agreements related to the purchase of the car. The loan application did not mention Movant's 2004 bankruptcy, and falsely stated that Movant owned a home, made no rental or mortgage payments, and earned $3, 500 per month.[8] By signing the car loan application, Movant certified that all information on the car loan application was "true, correct, and complete." Movant asserted that the sales representative "must have inserted" the false information concerning his home ownership and income into the car loan application, which allowed Movant to qualify for the car loan. Movant acknowledged that, at the time of the car's purchase, he was aware that the interest rate on the car loan was 14.95% and that his monthly car payment would be $674.70. Movant nevertheless took possession of the car.

In Fall 2007, Movant stopped making monthly car payments. Movant indicated he did so "because of what he considered contractual irregularities and/or alterations in the contract." Despite developing concerns about these irregularities, Movant did not immediately return the car, but rather continued to use the car until surrendering it in February 2008.

At the time that Movant surrendered the car, there was an arrearage of $19, 000 outstanding on the car loan. Movant testified that he litigated against the financing company, disputing responsibility for the deficiency. Movant testified ...


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