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Law Grad Argues to Take Bar Exam After Failing to Disclose Traffic Violations

Shamir L. Coll may have felt he had a fool for a client in his first case before the Ohio Supreme Court.

Coll, representing himself in the case, faced tough questions from the justices about his failure to disclose traffic convictions on an application to take the bar exam. Coll said that his traffic record wasn't material to his bar admission, and that the First Amendment protected his right to say the police who cited him were racially motivated.

Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor said that Coll's case was not about his opinion, but about his respect for the rules of the court. The bar application asked whether he had any traffic convictions.

"You were asked to respond to these questions," she said. "You were given multiple opportunities to respond to the question, and you pretty much took it upon yourself to be non-responsive."

What Was the Question?

Justice Patrick Dewine added:

"You seem to be saying today that you want to practice law in Ohio, but you don't believe you have an obligation to be candid with the court."

Coll, in an interview after the hearing, said he was not ready for the justices' attitude towards his case. He said he wished that he had an attorney.

"I was definitely nervous," he said. "What I was trying to argue -- it's difficult to get people on board with defending that."

Coll graduated from the University of Toledo College of Law in 2015, and applied to take the bar exam. But the Board of Commissioners on Character & Fitness turned him away for not providing accurate and complete answers to "all requested information" in his application.

The board said that Coll initially left blank forms that were required to explain any traffic convictions in the previous 10 years. When asked for more information, Coll cryptically described four violations and excused them as "mostly racism" and the "KKK."

What Do You Really Mean?

Frustrated with the answers, the board recommended that Coll not be allowed to reapply until 2019.

"Not only do his constitutional arguments lack rigor, his facile exercise -- at the expense of the Bar Admissions Committee and the Board of Commissioners -- demonstrates a woefully inadequate appreciation for the seriousness of the legal profession and the bar admissions process, so much so that the panel concludes that his immaturity (or egotism ... or both), combined with a dramatic lack of judgment, render him currently unfit to practice law," the board reported.

Coll said he wants to take the Ohio bar exam this year, but he has options if the court upholds the board's recommendations.

"There are 49 other states and 200 other countries," he said. "I'm not putting all my eggs in one basket."

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