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Law school reject sues to take bar exam

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An Indianapolis man is suing the state Supreme Court justices and Board of Law Examiners because he believes he should be able to take the bar exam even if he didn't go to law school.

Clarence K. Carter claims Admission Rule 13, which provides the educational requirements to sit for the exam, violates his rights to due process and equal protection under the 14th Amendment.

Rule 13 establishes the minimum educational prerequisites someone needs in order to take the bar exam: graduating from an American Bar Association-approved law school, completion of the law course required for graduation, and completion of two cumulative semester hours of legal ethics or professional responsibility at an approved law school.

Carter applied to 13 ABA-approved law schools between September 2007 and May 2009 and was denied admission to all of them.

The case, Carter v. Chief Justice and Justices of the Supreme Court for the State of Indiana and Executive Director and Members of the State Board of Law Examiners for the State of Indiana, No. 1:10-CV-41, was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court, Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division.

Carter believes Rule 13 violates his due process rights because the rule unconstitutionally prejudges him as "being unfit and incompetent to practice law" here, doesn't allow him the chance to prove his fitness, and believes the educational requirements have no connection to his fitness and ability to practice law in Indiana.

Carter also argued the rule arbitrarily excludes him from the chance to qualify to practice here because of the law schools' admission denials. The suit alleges the rule unconstitutionally denies equal opportunity to qualify to practice law here to those who can't get into law school or can't afford to attend law school.

Carter wants Rule 13 declared unconstitutional, prevent Rule 13 from being enforced, and allow Carter and others who haven't attended law school to prove fitness and capacity to practice law in Indiana.

This is the third suit filed in the past year dealing in some way with fitness and character to join the bar. In December 2009, a lawyer in good standing in Kansas who lives in Fort Wayne filed suit against the BLE in Bryan J. Brown v. Dr. Elizabeth Bowman, Terry Harrel, et al., No. 1:09-CV-346, because he believes the board was biased and discriminatory based on his religious beliefs when it referred him to the Indiana Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program. In July 2009, a Porter County woman filed a federal suit against the BLE in Jane Doe, et al. v. The Individual Members of the Indiana State Board of Law Examiners, No. 1:09-CV-842, charging that certain questions regarding fitness violate her ADA rights relating to mental health.

On Jan. 8, 2010, Magistrate Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson in Doe denied in part the BLE's motion for a protective order to prevent the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana from getting confidential information about bar applicants' answers to questions.

Magistrate Judge Magnus-Stinson found the plaintiffs made the requisite showing that "the need for truth" outweighs the importance of the confidentiality policy set forth in Indiana Admission and Discipline Rule 19(3) because the plaintiffs only want anonymous aggregate statistical data from the two most recent bar exams. She ordered the BLE to provide the specified information no later than Jan. 29, and that the plaintiffs must not disclose this information without giving the BLE advance notice in case it wants to prevent the disclosure.

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