Monday, December 23, 2013

ADA Admission Claim Rejected In South Dakota

A University of South Dakota School of Law student sought counseling in his second year of law school along with his girlfriend in order "to resolve some relationship issues."

Among other things, he reported in the session that he experienced auditory hallucinations. He was shortly thereafter diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder. He took medication for a period of time but stopped due to his finances and then "his mood fluctuated frequently."

He nonetheless was able to complete his second year of law school. His condition was "stabilized" when he was seen by counselors in August 2009.

He was arrested for DUI in February of his third year and pleaded guilty to reckless driving. He picked up and pleaded guilty to a second DUI two months later.

His application for admission in Iowa was granted after a psychological evaluation was conducted as part of the process.

He then took and passed the South Dakota Bar.

The South Dakota Supreme Court denied admision, finding that he had failed to prove his good moral character by clear and convincing evidence. His Iowa admission was not deemed dispositive of the fitness issue.

After taking the South Dakota bar exam, he was re-evaluated and the bipolar diagnosis was deemed "less likely." Rather, he appeared to have "clear manic/hypomanic syptoms his entire life."

The court followed the recommendation of the Board of Bar Examiners to deny admission, rejecting the claim that the denial of admission violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The court concluded that the denial was not based on the bipolar diagnosis.

Rather, the applicant failed to show that he was a "qualified individual" for bar admission.

The cumulative effect of [the applicant's] lack of candor, poor judgment, criminal record, and unreliability, paired with unresolved issues regarding the status of his mental health, justify the Board's decision.

He "may reapply at a future date with the understanding that the Board is allowed to conduct an individual assessment into [his] fitness to practice law, which includes a reasonable inquiry into [his] mental health." (Mike Frisch)

Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink

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