Dist. Ct.: 63-Year-Old Suspended Lawyer Could Not Discharge $500,000 in Student Loans Where he Made No Good Faith Effort to Pay them for 31 years

Dist. Ct.: 63-Year-Old Suspended Lawyer Could Not Discharge $500,000 in Student Loans Where he Made No Good Faith Effort to Pay them for 31 years

The Appellant  is a well-educated man. Since 1980, he has earned a bachelor’s degree, two master’s degrees, and a J.D. He is a certified public accountant and a member of the Illinois state bar. Like many others, he funded his education with student loans. Today, having spent several years in school and having deferred all but about $11, 000 in payments over 37 years, his student loan debt has ballooned to more than half a million dollars.

Appellant has other problems as well. After misappropriating $80, 000 of client funds, he lied to a police officer and falsified bank records in an unsuccessful effort to conceal his wrongdoing. The Disciplinary Commission (“ARDC”) has suspended his law license until at least September 2018.

While the disciplinary proceedings were pending, the Appellant filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceeding. He asked the bankruptcy court to discharge his student loan debt and enter a declaratory judgment that ARDC had violated his constitutional rights. The Bankruptcy Court denied both requests. The court concluded it had no jurisdiction over the declaratory judgment claim and therefore dismissed his claim against ARDC.

Appellant’s law practice did not go smoothly. In August 2012, ARDC charged him with several violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct. In a complaint at that time and amended a year later, ARDC asserted that he had knowingly misappropriated some $85, 000 from his client escrow account and then lied to a police officer investigating the matter.  ARDC charged that Appellant had lied during the course of the course of the ARDC’s own investigation as well, and had presented fabricated bank records in an attempt to cover up his wrongdoing. The ARDC’s Hearing Board heard his case at a proceeding held across four days: September 26 and 27, 2013; December 16, 2013; and January 3, 2014.

Appellant, acting pro se, defended himself against the charges by placing the blame on his 82-year-old mother, Ms. Frazin, who he claimed had been helping him with ministerial tasks at his office. “Her unfamiliarity with the difference between business and trust fund accounts, ” He stated, led her to “inadvertently” use client funds for his own business expenses. Frazin, who “was embarrassed and did not want [her son] to be upset” with her, then falsified the bank statements that an unknowing Appellant later provided to his clients, the police, and the ARDC’s investigators.

Appellant has not worked since his law license was suspended. Ever since, he has asserted that the ARDC’s “character assassination” renders it impossible for him to obtain professional employment. He has also claimed to be in poor health and incapable of physical labor. His only income comes from Social Security payments amounting to $15, 600 per year (or $1, 300 per month). His wife still works and earns roughly $60, 000 per year. She is responsible for all of the household’s expenses of $2, 300 per month, although Appellant contributes $500 per month out of his Social Security income. His only personal expense is a $100 monthly cell phone bill. He has no dependents, and no debt aside from the student loan-having paid off his home mortgage in 2014 and discharged the remainder of his debt in bankruptcy. At the time he filed this appeal, Appellant was 63 years old.

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