Thursday, February 13, 2014

DOJ Sends Critical Letter to Louisiana Supreme Court re its Bar Admission Process

Dane Ciolino (Loyola-New Orleans, Law) has blogged on the recent letter of warning the DOJ sent the state's supreme court and chief disciplinary counsel about the civil and disability rights of its applicants. The 10-page, supported letter is linked by Dane here. As he quotes it:

[W]e find that Louisiana’s attorney licensure system discriminates against bar applicants with disabilities by: (1) making discriminatory inquiries regarding bar applicants’ mental health diagnoses and treatment; (2) subjecting bar applicants to burdensome supplemental investigations triggered by their mental health status or treatment as revealed during the character and fitness screening process; (3) making discriminatory admissions recommendations based on stereotypes of persons with disabilities; (4) imposing additional financial burdens on people with disabilities; (5) failing to provide adequate confidentiality protections during the admissions process; and (6) implementing burdensome, intrusive, and unnecessary conditions on admission that are improperly based on individuals’ mental health diagnoses or treatment.

Dane adds, "The irrational methods and procedures Louisiana uses to evaluate the character and fitness of bar applicants have long been questionable. It is refreshing to see that someone else has noticed and may—and can—do something to fix them."

My ethics classes have been watching these C&F issues bubble up lately in this state, including complaints to and involvement by the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division. One student recounts the tale of a friend whose admission was granted conditionally in such a way that her name is published with all the history and conditions. Anyone googling her will quickly find that she self-reported her emotional issues and read the bar's detailing of that and its specific treatment conditions. Had they just admitted her there'd be no public record of her mandatory disclosures on her bar application; by granting conditional admission and publishing it, all the world gets to essentially read her candid C&F form.

This is no way to act professionally when the bar is supposed to be the gatekeeper of professionalism! I agree with Dane that the involvement of the DOJ may stir some serious introspection with the bar apparatus and Court to make its procedures and disclosure comply with the civil rights of the applicants. (Thanks to Lauren Michel and Alston Walker for sending me Dane's link, as well as other students.) [Alan Childress]

Bar Discipline & Process, Professional Responsibility | Permalink

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One point that the letter makes (and the point is entirely accurate) is how unlevel the playing field is in bar admissions. An applicant either gives in to whatever the Bar requires or resorts to litigation (see Clark v. Virginia Board of Bar Examiners). Applicants are not admitted unless the ether cave in or prevail in court.

Posted by: Mike Frisch | Feb 13, 2014 11:19:27 AM

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