Tuesday, October 10, 2017
Court of Appeal:
Admission to Bar Didn’t Boost Husband’s Earning Capacity
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The bleak job prospects for new attorneys was reflected in an opinion Friday by the Fourth District Court of Appeal which holds that a new admittee’s status as a lawyer did not substantially increase his earning capacity so as to render his wife entitled, in a dissolution action, to reimbursement for community contributions to his legal education.
At issue was whether Family Code §2641(b)(1) applied. It provides:
“The community shall be reimbursed for community contributions to education or training of a party that substantially enhances the earning capacity of the party.”
San Diego Superior Court Judge Gerald C. Jessop said that to order reimbursement, “[t]here must be evidence that the education substantially or demonstratively enhances earnings,” and observed:
“That evidence is missing. It’s speculative at best. Consequently, the Court is denying that request.”
The ruling came in the action for the dissolution of the marriage of William D. Powell, admitted to practice on Feb. 28, 2014, and Cara Powell. The community financed William Powell’s education at an unaccredited law school while he was working full time as a home theater installer.
‘Ticket to Prosperity’
Div. One of the appeals court affirmed in an opinion by Justice Cynthia Aaron, who quoted a 2008 Court of Appeal opinion as saying:
“A law degree is not a ticket to prosperity.”
“In this case, as William aptly points out, Cara argued that William’s legal education substantially enhanced his earning capacity because he became capable of practicing law as an attorney and that the only reason that William had gone to law school was to increase his earning capacity, but presented little or no evidence to demonstrate that his legal education in fact substantially enhanced his earning capacity. For example, Cara presented no expert witnesses to testify regarding the income that William was reasonably capable of earning based on his personal attributes and the employment market….”
“On this record, it is highly speculative whether William’s legal education substantially enhanced his earning capacity. William possessed marketable skills as a full-time electrician installing home theaters, and he had been steadily employed in that capacity for at least seven years. There was no evidence in the record that he had a reasonable prospect of being hired or earning more as a full-time attorney. In fact, the evidence showed that William had received no offers of full time employment as an attorney. His income increased somewhat after he graduated law school because of tutoring jobs and occasional legal work. However, William also incurred many expenses in connection with trying to build a legal practice….We discern no abuse of discretion by the court, which cited the correct legal standard and relevant case law, in its finding that there was insufficient evidence that William’s legal education substantially increased his earning capacity.”
The case is Marriage of Powell, D071322.
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