National judicial leaders including Indiana Chief Justice Loretta Rush have formed a task force to study the state of legal education, bar admissions processes and the decline of public interest attorneys.
The Committee on Legal Education and Admissions Reform, or CLEAR, is comprised of 12 members of the Conference of Chief Justices and Conference of State Court Administrators who will engage in an 18-month study.
The committee will then make recommendations to state supreme courts for practical reforms that will enhance legal education and diversify bar admission processes where appropriate.
“The American justice system stands at a critical juncture. Our profession is falling short in meeting the public’s needs,” New Hampshire Chief Justice Gordon J. MacDonald, chair of CLEAR, said in a statement. “There are vast legal ‘deserts’ where too many litigants are forced to confront an unfamiliar legal system without a lawyer. Legal service organizations dedicated to the public interest are unable to recruit and retain qualified attorneys. And, many new lawyers are not ‘practice ready’ upon admission to the bar.
“These issues contribute to a growing access-to-justice gap and undermine public confidence in our legal system,” MacDonald continued. “They must be addressed immediately.”
In addition to MacDonald, CLEAR will be led by New Mexico Chief Justice C. Shannon Bacon, who will serve as vice chair.
Other members include:
- Elisa Butler, state court administrator, Wyoming
- David K. Byers, state court administrator, Arizona
- Utah Chief Justice Matthew B. Durrant
- Oregon Chief Justice Megan Flynn
- Robert W. Horner, state court administrator, Ohio
- South Dakota Chief Justice Steven R. Jensen
- Alabama Chief Justice Tom Parker
- Delaware Chief Justice Collins J. Seitz
- Maine Chief Justice Valerie Stanfill
The creation of CLEAR comes as the Indiana Supreme Court is considering a proposal that would allow graduates of non-American Bar Association-accredited law schools to take the Indiana bar exam.
The proposal — which is currently open for public comment — comes at the urging of Purdue Global Law School, a non-ABA-accredited law school that is pushing for its graduates to be able to sit for the bar in Indiana.