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In re Application of Worthy

Supreme Court of Ohio

July 16, 2013

In re Application of Worthy.

Submitted May 8, 2013

On Report by the Board of Commissioners on Character and Fitness of the Supreme Court, No. 540.

Michele Yulana Worthy, pro se.

Amy S. Boland, for the Greene County Bar Association.

Per Curiam

{¶ 1} Michele Yulana Worthy of Beavercreek, Ohio, is a January 2013 graduate of the University of Dayton School of Law and has applied to register as a candidate to sit for the February 2013 bar exam. Based on findings that she was convicted of a fifth-degree-felony theft offense during her senior year in college and that she had failed to disclose an incident of academic misconduct on her law-school and bar-exam applications, the Board of Commissioners on Character and Fitness recommends that we disapprove Worthy's application for the February 2013 bar exam but permit her to reapply to take the July 2013 bar exam.[1] We adopt the board's findings of fact but will allow her to reapply for the July 2014 bar exam.

Facts

{¶ 2} The admissions committee of the Greene County Bar Association first interviewed Worthy on August 23, 2012, and issued a provisional report recommending that her application be approved. On October 31, 2012, she applied to take the February 2013 bar exam. Because Worthy had been convicted of a felony, however, Gov.Bar R. I(11)(D)(5)(a) required her to submit to a review by the board in accordance with Gov.Bar R. I(12).

{¶ 3} A panel of the board conducted a hearing on January 10, 2013. In its report, the panel found that Worthy received her undergraduate degree from the Ohio State University in the spring of 2009 and worked as an assistant teacher for one year before beginning her law studies at the University of Dayton in the fall of 2010.

{¶ 4} During Worthy's senior year of college, while she was supporting herself and putting herself through school, she fell short on funds following an illness that caused her to miss work. She and a friend planned to shoplift designer jeans from a store and then sell them, but they were caught shoplifting by the store's security officers.

{¶ 5} Worthy was represented by a public defender, and as a first-time offender entered into a diversion program. She was sentenced to community service and one year of community control and was ordered to pay restitution of $1, 100. She completed 80 hours of community service, made restitution within one year, and was released from community control. This offense has since been expunged from Worthy's record.

{¶ 6} Worthy fully disclosed her felony conviction on both her application to law school and her application to register as a candidate for admission to the practice of law. She testified that she had never before done anything like that and only later learned that her accomplice had previously shoplifted at the same location and was on the store's watch list. The panel found that Worthy was so ashamed of the incident that she lost her composure at times during her testimony. She testified that she had not done anything wrong in the three and a half years since that incident and that she had tried to give back to the community by participating in philanthropic and community-service activities, including going to Panama to assist with HIV testing and educational workshops. Worthy stated that if she is faced with financial difficulties in the future, she will not do something "crazy" like this. She also made it clear that her actions had greatly disappointed her family and that she would never want to repeat them.

{¶ 7} The panel next inquired about an incident of academic misconduct that Worthy had revealed during her interview with the admissions committee of the Greene County Bar Association. As an undergraduate, Worthy submitted a paper for one of her courses that included material plagiarized from a website. When asked why she had not reported this incident on her application to register as a candidate for admission to the bar, she explained that she had not answered yes to the question about warnings, academic probations, and similar occurrences, because answering yes would require her to answer follow-up questions regarding the incident and she had been unable to obtain the detailed information about the sanction imposed by the school. She stated that she had intended to supplement her application once she obtained that information, but that she had forgotten to do so.

{¶ 8} In making its provisional recommendation that Worthy's application be approved, the local bar association admissions committee had considered her plagiarism and failure to disclose it on the application to register as a candidate for admission to the bar. At the panel hearing, however, a panel member noted that the National Conference of Bar Examiners character-and-fitness-investigation summary included a page from Worthy's application to the University of Dayton School of Law on which the following question was asked: "Have you ever been dropped, suspended, warned, disciplined, placed on scholastic or disciplinary probation, expelled or requested to resign, or allowed to resign in lieu of discipline from any high school, college, or university, or requested or advised by any such institution to discontinue your studies therein?" Worthy had answered no, although she testified that the Committee on Academic Misconduct had told her that she "couldn't have another incident of plagiarism" and that she had understood this to mean that she was on academic probation. But on further questioning by the panel, she stated that she did not remember answering no to the question and that she could not explain her reason for having done so. The panel noted that the question on the law-school application was virtually identical to the question at issue on the application to register as a candidate for ...


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