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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. CCHP's real accomplishment is the 2015 law signed by Gov Pence that basically outlaws any annexation that is forced where a 65% majority of landowners in the affected area disagree. Regardless of whether HP wins or loses, the citizens of Indiana will not have another fiasco like this. The law Gov Pence signed is a direct result of this malgovernance.

  2. I gave tempparry guardship to a friend of my granddaughter in 2012. I went to prison. I had custody. My daughter went to prison to. We are out. My daughter gave me custody but can get her back. She was not order to give me custody . but now we want granddaughter back from friend. She's 14 now. What rights do we have

  3. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

  4. I have a case presently pending cert review before the SCOTUS that reveals just how Indiana regulates the bar. I have been denied licensure for life for holding the wrong views and questioning the grand inquisitors as to their duties as to state and federal constitutional due process. True story: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS Shorter, Amici brief serving to frame issue as misuse of govt licensure: https://www.scribd.com/doc/312841269/Thomas-More-Society-Amicus-Brown-v-Ind-Bd-of-Law-Examiners

  5. Here's an idea...how about we MORE heavily regulate the law schools to reduce the surplus of graduates, driving starting salaries up for those new grads, so that we can all pay our insane amount of student loans off in a reasonable amount of time and then be able to afford to do pro bono & low-fee work? I've got friends in other industries, radiology for example, and their schools accept a very limited number of students so there will never be a glut of new grads and everyone's pay stays high. For example, my radiologist friend's school accepted just six new students per year.

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