ADA violations in bar admission catch attention of Indiana BLE

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The Indiana State Board of Law Examiners is taking notice of a finding by the U.S. Department of Justice that Louisiana’s treatment of bar applicants with mental health conditions was in violation of the American with Disabilities Act.

Justice Department officials found that the Louisiana attorney licensure system’s practice of evaluating and treating bar applicants who have mental health disabilities was discriminatory. In particular, the DOJ concluded that the requirement that applicants to the state bar answer the mental health questions included on the National Conference of Bar Examiners Request for Preparation of a Character Report tended to screen out individuals based on stereotypes and assumptions.

skolnik Skolnik

The department put its findings in a letter to the Louisiana Supreme Court and requested court officials work with the DOJ to resolve the matter in an “amicable and cooperative fashion.”

Indiana’s application for admission to the bar contains the questions that were the focus of the DOJ investigation but, according to Bradley Skolnik, executive director of the Indiana State Board of Law Examiners, Indiana has not received a letter from the Justice Department.

The BLE is carefully reviewing the DOJ letter sent to Louisiana and will continue to monitor the situation, Skolnik said. “The board is committed to ensuring all policies and procedures comply with the ADA.”

Following a 2011 court order, Indiana’s board did modify one of its admission questions regarding diagnosis and treatment of any mental health disorder. Judge Tanya Walton Pratt of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana found the question to be improper under the ADA because it was overly broad and captured information not related to serious mental and emotional problems.

Skolnik said mental health and substance abuse issues, raised through questions on the bar admission application, are considered when assessing an individual’s character and fitness.

“The process is highly confidential because it does involve analysis of personal information,” he said. “The board has no desire to be intrusive but it does have a very high duty to ensure applicants have the ability to practice law and discharge their duties.”

According to the Justice Department, the Louisiana Supreme Court Committee on Bar Admissions was using the responses to the mental health questions to single out applicants.

The Louisiana admissions committee was recommending conditional admission to applicants with mental health diagnoses. These applicants had to sign consent agreements that gave the Office of Disciplinary Counsel permission to monitor the applicants, have “full and unfettered access” to their medical records, and to contact their employers and supervising attorneys to discuss the conditional admission.

The Indiana State Board of Law Examiners can give conditional admission if it has concerns about an applicant’s drug, alcohol, psychological or behavioral problems. Skolnik said a conditional admission could have provisions attached that, for example, would require an applicant to check in on a quarterly basis or be subject to testing for substance abuse.

In lieu of denying admission, Skolnik said, the board can ask for a conditional admission to make sure the applicant meets the standards necessary for the practice of law.

Other than the adjustment order by Pratt, the board has not made any significant changes to the application for admission in several years. However, the board did recently launch an online application process. Individuals wanting to take the bar exam in Indiana can now file for admittance electronically. Skolnik said the response has been “very positive” and the online process has improved efficiency.

Also, the board is still in the process of considering changes to the bar exam itself.

The BLE submitted a proposal in 2013 to replace the essay topics on commercial law, personal property and taxation with debtor/creditor law and employment law. In addition, the board suggested including six topics from the Multistate Bar Exam in the Indiana Essay Examination.

Skolnik said the public has made “thoughtful comments” on the proposed changes that the board is carefully considering. He anticipates the board will soon make adjustments to its suggestions.•


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  1. This is ridiculous. Most JDs not practicing law don't know squat to justify calling themselves a lawyer. Maybe they should try visiting the inside of a courtroom before they go around calling themselves lawyers. This kind of promotional BS just increases the volume of people with JDs that are underqualified thereby dragging all the rest of us down likewise.

  2. I think it is safe to say that those Hoosier's with the most confidence in the Indiana judicial system are those Hoosier's who have never had the displeasure of dealing with the Hoosier court system.

  3. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise

  4. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

  5. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.