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ACLU sues State Board of Law Examiners

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The ACLU of Indiana has filed a lawsuit against the members of the Indiana State Board of Law Examiners, alleging the state's bar examination application violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The suit, filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division, claims the application discriminates against some applicants because of perceived mental impairments by asking intrusive questions about an applicant's mental health, including whether or not he or she has been diagnosed with any mental, emotional, or nervous disorders.

If an applicant answers yes, they are required to complete another form with detailed information. It is then reviewed by State Board of Law Examiners members who determine whether further information or medical records are needed to assess the person's fitness to practice law in Indiana.

This is an issue that has been raised in three or four other states either in bar or medical licensing applications, said ACLU of Indiana Legal Director Ken Falk. He said the states' Supreme courts found ADA violations.

According to the application, the information is treated confidentially and the purpose is to determine fitness of the applicant to practice law. It also states the fact of treatment for mental health problems or addictions isn't in itself a basis for denying an applicant admission to the bar.

The suit was filed on behalf of Porter County resident Jane Doe, and others similarly situated. Doe is a member of the Illinois bar and an Indiana law school graduate who in order to practice here must take the bar exam. She has been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder and receives counseling. Doe hasn't seen any impairment in her ability to function in law school and since graduation because of her disorders. She applied for the bar in the fall of 2008. She answered the questions regarding her mental health status truthfully, upon which the members of the State Board determined she had to contact the Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program for a thorough review of her mental heath records and an evaluation. She then withdrew her application.

The suit argues Doe and others who have been diagnosed with various disorders are subjected to unnecessary and intrusive inquires into their mental health histories and have additional burdens imposed upon them. Doe wants to apply again in February 2010 but doesn't want to have to produce her medical records and be interviewed by JLAP.

The suit, Jane Doe, on her own behalf and on behalf of a class of those similarly situated v. The Individual Members of the Indiana State Board of Law Examiners, in their official capacities, No. 1:09-CV-0842, seeks class action status and asks the court to enter a declaratory judgment that the board violated the ADA. It also asks the court enter a preliminary injunction to prevent the defendants from asking the class any questions solely concerning past or present mental health diagnoses or treatment, and from preventing the board from discriminating against the plaintiffs because of those diagnoses.


Falk wasn't sure how long the mental health questions had been included in the application, but he said it had just been redone and the questions were kept in the revision.

Both the State Board of Examiners and Attorney General said they couldn't comment on the pending litigation.

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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