ABA President calls upon state bars to remove mental health and substance use questions from bar exam applications

ABA President Judy Perry Martinez published an article in the AccessLex publication Raising the Bar (Spring 2020) in which she called upon state bars to focus on conduct and remove discriminatory mental health and substance use questions:

“[A]sking bar applicants about their mental health history doesn’t improve the quality of individuals who are members of the profession, nor does it improve the quality of legal services delivered to the public.”

 “Every state should stop asking discriminatory, ineffective questions of bar applicants. It’s a critical step toward removing the stigma of treatment that plagues our profession and hinders our ability to deliver the highest quality of legal services to those whom we serve.”

The ABA COLAP has worked hard to advocate on reforming the character and fitness process. COLAP advisory board member  David Jaffe and COLAP commission member Janet Stearns recently published an article in The Professional Lawyer, the ABA Center for Professional’s Responsibility periodical on Ethics and Professionalism, detailing the process and progress among various states in modifying or eliminating questions that address an applicant’s substance use and mental health disorders on Character and Fitness portions of bar admission applications. Read the article here.

The NY Court of Appeals voted to remove its questions in February, 2020 and the Michigan Supreme Court voted in March, 2020 to remove its questions. The COLAP continues to monitor developments closely and welcomes input from LAPS, law schools and bar regulators who wish to discuss further strategies.

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