$480,000 Student Loan Debt Disqualifies Applicant From Obtaining License to Practice Law

09 Dec $480,000 Student Loan Debt Disqualifies Applicant From Obtaining License to Practice Law

A panel of New York state court judges has once again denied Robert Bowman’s application to be admitted to the practice of law in that state, citing lack of “character and fitness” due to his unusually large student loan debt of $480,000.

These two decisions, Matter of Anonymous, D-11-09 (Supreme Court, Appellate Div., Third Dept., April 16, 2009), and Matter of Anonymous, D-51-09 (Supreme Court, Appellate Div., Third Dept., Sept. 25, 2009), were reported by Jonathan Glater of the New York Times on July 2, 2009, and November 27, 2009.

Bowman was inspired to become a lawyer after a childhood in foster care and various legal proceedings exposing him to lawyers. Obtaining an undergraduate degree took Bowman ten years due to spending six years in rehabilitation after an ATV struck him. He obtained his degree in 1995. In 2000 he enrolled in law school, graduating in 2004 with $230,000 in student loan debt.

Bowman finally passed the bar exam in 2008. Soon after, his leg was broken in four places when a Jet Ski struck him while he swam at a beach. Despite Bowman’s efforts to gain a medical deferment of his student loan payments, Sallie Mae sent his account to collections, resulting in a 25 percent penalty being added to his already astronomically high student loan debt.

Although Sallie Mae denies this, Bowman claims Sallie Mae’s actions resulted in the imposition of two 25 percent penalties. At the time of the April 16, 2009, court decision denying his application to the bar, Bowman’s student loan balance was $430,000. By November 19, 2009, the balance had mushroomed to $480,000. Bowman says the balance increases by $10,000 per month due to interest.

The court’s decisions cited Bowman’s recalcitrance in dealing with his student loan lender, and his failure to make substantial payments on the loans. The court stated that Bowan had not been “flexible” in negotiating with the lender. It also said that Bowmman was welcome to reapply for admission to the bar if he could show a change in his circumstances.

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Craig W. Andresen is a consumer bankruptcy lawyer in Bloomington, Minnesota, with 22 years’ experience in consumer and small business bankruptcy cases. He is the Minnesota chair of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys, and is a member of the Minnesota State Bar Association’s Bankruptcy Section. Mr. Andresen lectures often on the topic of consumer bankruptcy at local and national legal seminars.
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