Three states postpone July bar exam; will others follow?
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July bar exams in New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut will be rescheduled for the fall.
The New York Court of Appeals made its announcement in a news advisory Friday. On Monday, the Massachusetts Board of Bar Examiners and the state supreme court made a similar announcement, which was posted online, as did the Connecticut Bar Examining Committee.
Meanwhile, the issue was discussed Monday by the State Bar of California’s committee of bar examiners in an emergency meeting. Open session of the meeting included public comments from 54 people. The majority of speakers were law students who urged the committee to consider diploma privilege rather than postponing the bar exam.
Student concerns included taking a traditional bar exam with a compromised immune system, running out of money to live on if the exam is pushed back to the fall and finding places to study for the bar exam, or take it remotely, while living in dwellings with multiple people.
“Think about these changes as if they were affecting you when you were preparing for the bar exam. How do you think it would have impacted you, and how do you think it could help everyone,” said Octavia Carson, a 3L from San Diego’s Thomas Jefferson School of Law who supports diploma privilege for the California bar.
Following 3-1/2 hours of public comments the committee went to closed session, with some member objections. Also, some members objected to committee chair Robert Brody allowing everyone who wanted to speak during open session the opportunity to do so.
As of Monday evening, the committee had not released a recommendation for the July Bar. According to the California bar’s office of communications, the goal of the Monday meeting was to get input it will provide to the National Conference of Bar Examiners and the state supreme court, the latter of which has authority over what happens with the July bar.
Meanwhile, a law student petition is being circulated online, asking the NCBE to “cancel the July exam, refund paid exam fees and issue an advisory statement to state bar associations recommending diploma-privileged licensure.” It follows a March 22 working paper written by legal academics, urging states to consider diploma privilege for 2020 law school graduates, as well as supervised practice.
Judith Gundersen, president of the NCBE, told the ABA Journal in an email that each jurisdiction makes its own decision regarding licensure requirements. Also, she wrote that bar candidates pay exam fees directly to jurisdictions, and the NCBE can’t issue a bar exam refund on behalf of any jurisdiction.
“Such decisions around licensure methods that don’t include testing are entirely up to each jurisdiction, and NCBE does not play a role in those decisions. We will support and assist jurisdictions in any way we can, of course,” she added. “We are working with the jurisdictions to arrive at solutions that will protect the health and safety of candidates and jurisdiction staff, as well as the integrity of the licensure process.”
Another law student petition focuses on the California bar. Pilar Margarita Hernández Escontrías, a law student at the University of California Irvine and co author of the petition, told the ABA Journal Monday afternoon the petition has 840 signatures.
Updated March 30 at 10:47 a.m. to add information and quote from Judith Gundersen and again at 6:30 p.m. to add information and quotes about the Massachusetts, Connecticut and California bar exams. Corrected March 31 at 10:24 a.m. to state that 840 people signed the California bar petition as of Monday afternoon, not 84.
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