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Should a Former Sex Offender Be Allowed to Become an Ohio Lawyer?

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on October 20, 2015 10:31 AM

There have been bank robbers, drug dealers, and even murderers who have all become lawyers. But convicted sex offenders? That might be a step too far for the Ohio bar, which is seeking to prevent a former Army officer convicted of trying to have sex with young girls from taking the state bar exam.

The Ohio Supreme Court recently heard arguments in the case of John Tynes, the former sex offender seeking to become a lawyer. Tynes served 19 months in prison 17 years ago, after he was caught trying to meet a girl younger than 15 for sex.

Room for Redemption?

In 1998, Tynes, a father of four, flew to Chicago to meet a young girl for sex. He brought along a video camera for good measure. Instead of a young girl, however, he was met by FBI agents, according to the Associated Press. Tynes was later convicted in military court of a host of felony-charges stemming from that arrest and served 19 months of a 30-month military sentence.

His experience in prison inspired him to become a lawyer, Tynes says in court filings. He became involved in the website PrisonTalk.com and was inspired to work "with the system to help make a change." He attended the Salmon P. Chase College of Law at Northern Kentucky University, the AP reports. When he applied to take the Ohio bar exam, however, the Board of Commissioners on Character and Fitness denied his request.

Not the Only Felon Turned Lawyer

Tynes argues that he is fully rehabilitated and should not be precluded from practicing by events which occurred 17 years ago. If he was allowed to practice, he wouldn't be the only lawyer with a criminal past.

In 1999, while Tynes was in prison, Derek Farmer was sitting for -- and passing -- the Ohio bar exam. A former felon, the teenaged Farmer had taken part in a jewelry store robbery that left two dead, one civil rights advocate, and one police officer. Tynes's court filings ignore Farmer, but note that several other felons have also sat for the Ohio bar. One was convicted of shooting a jogger with a BB gun, the other of grand larceny.

The Character and Fitness Board seems to see Tynes's past actions as unredeemable, however. "He engaged in conduct that demonstrates a disregard for the law," their report says, "and more importantly, a complete and utter disregard for the health and welfare of others -- namely, vulnerable, female children."

The Ohio Supreme Court will now have to decide if Tynes should have a chance at practicing law. What do you think? Let us know via Twitter (@FindLawLP) or Facebook (FindLaw for Legal Professionals).

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