Monday, February 4, 2019
Posted on the web page of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals Committee on Admissions
The District of Columbia bar exam is administered twice a year – February and July – as designated by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE). As many of you are aware, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals’ Committee on Admissions (COA) was closed from December 22, 2018 to January 25, 2019 as a result of the government shutdown. One of the primary functions of the COA is processing applications for individuals seeking admission to the District of the Columbia Bar – either through examination or via waiver from another jurisdiction – and swearing-in candidates who’ve been certified for admission to the DC Bar. During the recent government shutdown, approximately 950 applications were submitted to take the upcoming bar exam that will be administered on February 26 and 27, 2019. Since the COA was closed for processing applications, and planning for the administration of the bar exam, the 950 applicants – through no fault of their own – were caught in a period of stressful uncertainty concerning: (a) whether or not they would be able to take the exam in the District of Columbia, and (b) if not, where else they would be able to take the exam; particularly given the fact that application deadlines in other jurisdictions were either closed or were soon-to-be closing.
Under the leadership of Chief Judge Anna Blackburne-Rigsby, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals worked with a number of outside stakeholders who stepped forward to offer assistance in ways that would lessen the adverse impact that the government shutdown was having on people who applied and paid to take the upcoming bar exam in the District of Columbia. The Executive Office of Mayor Muriel Bowser, and the Office of Attorney General Karl Racine, made significant contributions towards assisting the District of Columbia Court of Appeals formulate contingency plans, as well as navigate the uncertainties associated with the government shutdown. Judith Gundersen, President of the NCBE, worked tirelessly to secure “courtesy seating” for DC applicants to take the exam in other jurisdictions. Herbert Rouson, then Chief Deputy Clerk of the Court of Appeals, commented that “Judith’s leadership in working with jurisdictions across the country, and her active collaboration with our leadership team here at the Court, played a vital part in helping us work to solutions that addressed the stress and uncertainty of our applicants…” District of Columbia Bar President Esther Lim and Chief Executive Officer Bob Spagnoletti offered the support of their staff in an effort to ensure that administration of the February 2019 bar exam could move forward, regardless of whether the government was shutdown or not. The final and significant component of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals’ contingency plans were made possible by the Board of Directors, and Executive Director Aaron Taylor, of AccessLex Center for Legal Education Excellence – who offered grant funding in support of any contingency plans associated with the administration of the DC bar exam.
The District of Columbia Court of Appeals wishes to thank all of the aforementioned stakeholders – for their generosity, collaboration, and shared interest in ensuring that the Court’s mission of providing access to justice to the residents of the District of Columbia goes forward. Additionally, a tremendous note of thanks is owed to The Honorable Phyllis Thompson, Julio Castillo – Clerk of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, and Marie Robertson – Acting Chief Deputy Clerk of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, for their strategic leadership and insightful collaboration in working through this challenge. Finally, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals wants to express its appreciation to all of the applicants for their patience. We understand that the uncertainty surrounding the February DC bar exam made an already challenging and stressful time all the more so. Our dedicated Committee on Admissions team is pleased to be back, and is working diligently to execute plans for administering the upcoming exam; and we wish the applicants success in this important endeavor.
A period of stressful uncertainty seems to be where the country is these days. (Mike Frisch)