Court rules former priest can take bar exam, despite allegations

Alaska man accused of abusing boy dismissed from priesthood in 2005

Posted: Sunday, September 23, 2007

DES MOINES - A former Alaska priest who was accused of sexually abusing a boy will be allowed to take the Iowa bar examination, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled Friday.

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Michael Patrick Nash, who was dismissed from the priesthood in 2005, was initially barred from taking the examination last year by the Iowa Board of Law Examiners. The board questioned his moral character, noting how Nash was accused of molesting a child two decades ago at the Catholic Diocese of Juneau. The board also questioned Nash's admitted acts of making boys give him foot and neck massages if they misbehaved.

The Supreme Court overruled the board's decision, noting that Nash has never been convicted of inappropriate behavior with children.

"While we certainly do not condone Nash's disciplinary techniques, we do not believe such non-criminal acts from 17 (or more) years ago reflect poorly on his present moral character and fitness to practice law," the court wrote in the ruling.

Nash, a 2006 Creighton law school graduate, was first investigated in late 2002, when a former Juneau resident claimed he had been abused by Nash in the early 1980s. The diocese decided that the person "suffered grave harm at the hands of Mr. Nash" and agreed to pay him $175,740 to settle his claims.

After the allegations became public, a number of other men made similar claims, according to the diocese.

Nash denied any wrongdoing, but agreed to the process that resulted in his dismissal from the priesthood in November 2005.

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