Bar Exam

Persistent would-be lawyer may see her 1991 bar exam results, state supreme court rules

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A would-be Ohio lawyer can see her July 1991 bar exam results, the Ohio Supreme Court has ruled, in the case of a persistent 1988 law grad who is still seeking admission to the bar.

The court ruled Nov. 5 in the case of Gillian Holzhauser-Graber, who will be allowed to see the results but won’t be allowed to gain admission to the bar at this time. The court did not decide whether she could reapply in the future. Court News Ohio has coverage.

Holzhauser-Graber had failed a bar exam taken in 1989. She took the exam again in 1991, and her 1991 bar exam results were sealed after the court’s Board of Commissioners on Character and Fitness concluded that she had perjured herself in a civil suit filed against a hospital.

As a result of that filing, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled in 1993 that the results should remain sealed until Holzhauser-Graber could show that she had the character, fitness and moral qualifications for bar admission.

Since then, Holzhauser-Graber’s applications for admission were denied several times, according to the Ohio Supreme Court’s per curiam opinion.

Holzhauser-Graber filed her most recent application for admission in 2016. The character and fitness board recommended denial. The board found that Holzhauser-Graber failed to accurately describe the hospital litigation in a 2014 character and fitness interview, and she gave “confusing or evasive testimony” in connection with her 2016 application.

The Ohio Supreme Court noted that Holzhauser-Graber “presented positive character evidence at her most recent character and fitness hearing,” including testimony from several witnesses who described her as “reliable and truthful.”

But the court said she failed to disclose two 1984 probate cases in which she was named as a party. She was also “less than candid” when asked to explain the circumstances of past denials and withdrawn applications for admission, the state supreme court said.

A partial dissenter said the bar exam results should remain sealed. “Other applicants do not get to know whether they have passed the bar examination before passing a character and fitness evaluation, and neither should Holzhauser-Graber,” said the partial dissent by Justice Sharon Kennedy.

Two other justices on the seven-member court would also have refused to allow Holzhauser-Graber to see the exam results, but they did not join Kennedy’s opinion.

Kennedy argued that allowing Holzhauser-Graber to see her exam results weakens the court’s rules and disregards prior orders.

If Holzhauser-Graber learns that she failed the 1991 bar, another unnecessary character and fitness review could be avoided. “It may seem like a practical solution, but at what cost?” Kennedy wrote.

“The guiding light in discipline and admissions cases is our precedent, and this court will have to explain away the result in this case in cases to come,” Kennedy said.

Hat tip to the Legal Profession Blog.

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