DOJ and Louisiana Supreme Court Settle over Mental Health Inquiries in Bar Application Process: New Focus on Conduct

The United States Department of Justice and the Louisiana Supreme Court have entered into a Settlement Agreement, resolving the DOJ’s investigation into the Court’s attorney licensure system for alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The recent Agreement shifts focus from a bar applicant’s diagnosis or treatment of a mental health disability to an applicant’s past conduct.

The investigation began in March 2011 when the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law had filed a complaint on behalf of bar applicants with mental health disabilities, alleging that the applicants’ mental health disabilities were the bases for additional character and fitness inquiries and/or conditions on admission.

The Agreement includes conditions requiring the Court to: refrain from inquiring into an applicant’s mental health diagnosis or treatment, absent certain, enumerated conditions; not recommend or impose conditional admission solely on the basis of a mental health diagnosis or treatment; and individually tailor conditions on admission to address the conduct or impairment of the applicant’s ability to practice law. It also provides for compensation to seven individuals in the amount of $200,000.

Access the full Agreement here.

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