Disability Law

Louisiana Supreme Court settles ADA probe by DOJ over mental-health queries on bar application

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The Louisiana Supreme Court has agreed to settle a U.S. Department of Justice probe over claims that some mental-health questions on the state’s bar application could violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Specifically, the DOJ found that those involved in evaluating bar applications have been making admission recommendations focused on mental health diagnoses and treatment instead of conduct that would justifiably provide a basis for denying admission to the state’s bar, explains a DOJ press release.

The Legal Profession Blog provides a link to the settlement agreement, in which the DOJ says a conditional bar admission program for those with mental health disabilities violates the ADA, too.

The supreme court disagrees with these conclusions by the DOJ, the agreement notes, but “cooperated in good faith at all stages of the department’s investigation.” The settlement agreement says that “since July 2013, the court has voluntarily undertaken several steps to address concerns that the department raised during the course of its investigation.”

To resolve the probe, among other conditions, the court agreed to revise some questions on a standard National Conference of Bar Examiners questionnaire. Additionally, Louisiana officials involved in bar admissions will “not recommend or impose conditional admission solely on the basis of mental health diagnosis or treatment,” the settlement agreement states.

Erica Moeser, who serves as president of the NCBE, told the ABA Journal the group had already been working on revisions to some mental health questions on its standard character and fitness report questionnaire and implemented the changes last winter. The NCBE also can and does regularly customize its questionnaire for individual states that don’t wish to use the standard form, she noted.

She declined to comment specifically on the settlement agreement between the DOJ and the court, explaining she hasn’t yet had a chance to review it in detail.

A spokeswoman for the Louisiana Supreme Court had no immediate comment when contacted Monday by the ABA Journal.

Additional and related coverage:

ABA Journal: “State bars may probe applicants’ behavior, but not mental health status, says DOJ”

ABAJournal.com: “Would-be lawyer loses ADA challenge based on mental-health questions”

ABAJournal.com: “DOJ says bar officials violate ADA by asking applicants too much about their mental health”

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