The Indiana Supreme Court’s Board of Law Examiners is cutting one controversial question from its annual bar exam application and will revise another in order to comply with a federal judge’s recent ruling.
U.S. Judge Tanya Walton Pratt in the Southern District of Indiana ruled Sept. 20 that Question 23 on the state’s bar exam application violates the Americans with Disabilities Act because it too broadly asks potential lawyers about their mental health back to age 16. She also ruled that three other questions were permissible because they focused more specifically on medical history and mental and psychological conditions that might impact one’s current practice of law.
Her ruling in the case of ACLU-Indiana – Indiana University School of Law – Indianapolis Chapter, and Amanda Perdue, et al. v. The Individual Members of the Indiana State Board of Law Examiners, No. 1:09-CV-0842, granted and denied summary judgment motions from both sides, and the attorneys today filed a joint submission of proposed judgment as the judge had requested.
The submission addresses the specifics of Judge Pratt’s ruling but doesn’t waive the right for either party to appeal her decision on the questions.
Indianapolis attorney and BLE chair Jon Laramore said the state will immediately stop using Question 23 on the applications for the February 2012 bar exam. The applications are posted online and will be revised as soon as possible, although he pointed out that any applications downloaded prior to that change would still include the question at issue. If anyone submits an application with answers to that question, the BLE will disregard those responses, Laramore said. The BLE will revise Question 22, although final language hasn’t yet been approved, he said.
“We believe that the revised question, along with other questions on the application, will allow us to obtain all the information we need to evaluate applicants’ character and fitness,” Laramore wrote in an email to Indiana Lawyer.
Judge Pratt will issue a final order in the case, and from there the parties will have an opportunity to appeal to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. Both Laramore and the ACLU of Indiana’s legal director Ken Falk said no official decisions have been made on the possibility of appeal at this time.