A former teacher who pleaded guilty in 1999 to having sex with
one of her students was denied permission to practice law in Louisiana by the
state Supreme Court.
Wednesday's ruling includes results of an investigation report on Kelle Hinson-Lyles that said she not only had an illegal sexual relationship with a 14-year-old boy in 1998, but also lied about it to authorities. At one point she had the boy hide in a closet when Beauregard Parish deputies went to her home to investigate allegations of the affair, the court said.
The teacher pleaded guilty in February 1999, when she was 24, to one count of indecent behavior with a juvenile and two counts of carnal knowledge of a juvenile. She was sentenced to a four-year suspended prison term and put on three years of probation.
"Taken as a whole, we find this conduct is not an isolated instance of poor judgment on petitioner's part, but is rather evidence that she fundamentally lacks the character and fitness to be admitted to the practice of law," the court said in an unsigned 5-2 opinion.
Justice Catherine Kimball dissented, noting that Hinson-Lyles' probation supervisor called her a "model probationer" and recommended her for admission to the bar.
Justice Chet Traylor also dissented, but for different reasons.
He noted that the court's Committee on Bar Admissions had already told the woman that she would not be allowed to practice law. The Supreme Court then allowed her to take the bar exam, warning her that she would have to submit character and fitness evidence if she passed.
A court-appointed commissioner recommended that she be allowed to practice law, but the high court's Committee on Bar Admissions objected, leaving the seven justices to make the final decision.
"When this court allows a person to take the bar examination upon condition, and then that person passes the examination and meets the conditions set before them, it is disingenuous for the court to then decide that more conditions must be met, especially without stating what those conditions are," Traylor wrote, noting that he had opposed letting her take the bar exam.