Lawyer Fails to File Bankruptcy or Otherwise Carry Out Debt Repayment Plan; License to Practice Law Revoked

29 May Lawyer Fails to File Bankruptcy or Otherwise Carry Out Debt Repayment Plan; License to Practice Law Revoked

In Santulli v. Texas Board of Law Examiners, 2009 WL 961568 (Tex.App.-Austin, April 10, 2009), the Texas Court of Appeals upheld the revocation of a lawyer’s license to practice law, based upon his failure to either make payment arrangements for his outstanding debts or discharge them in bankruptcy.

The Board of Law Examiners had found that the lawyer’s “lack of trustworthiness in carrying out responsibilities” created a “likelihood that Mr. Santulli would harm a client, obstruct the administration of justice, or violate” the lawyer ethics rules. It had granted the lawyer a two year probationary license, on condition that he continue to make payments to Consumer Credit Counseling and also continue his student loan payments.
After the lawyer fell behind on both of those obligations, the board gave him a six month extension in which to either file a bankruptcy case in order to discharge his debts, or to make payment arrangements. The lawyer failed to do so within this time period. The board concluded that this failure indicated a “lack of financial responsibility, trustworthiness, and the good moral character required for bar admission.” It therefore revoked his probationary law license.
The appeals court upheld the board’s order, observing that “longstanding lack of financial responsibility” could, in some cases, show a “persistent inability to discharge … significant obligations.” The court expressed concern that a financially irresponsible lawyer could injure a client, and it found that the board had a reasonable basis for its revocation of the lawyer’s license.
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