Monday, January 22, 2007

ADA Accommodations for the Bar Exam --

The Portland Press-Telegram reports that two learning disabled law graduates are suing the Maine Bar Examiners to require they give accommodations when they take the bar.

Bruce Montgomery, 62, of Georgetown, who has been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, said he has been denied a private room and extra time to complete the test four times, leading to four bar examination failures since 2004.

Toby Jandreau, 30, of Portland, who has a nonverbal learning disability, said he asked for and was denied extra time twice, leading to his bar examination failures.
Together, the men have filed a lawsuit against the Board of Bar Examiners in Cumberland County Superior Court. They are asking a judge to order a hearing right away and to order a preliminary injunction that would let them take the state bar examination with accommodations during the last week of February.
"Were not asking for special treatment. We're just asking for a level playing field for these guys," said Chad Hansen, an attorney with the Disability Rights Center of Maine, who represents the two men. "The bar examiners have set a ridiculously impossible standard for these guys to meet." [snip]

In 1998, a federal appeals court ruled that professional licensing boards, including bar examiners, also have to make accommodations to people with learning disabilities such as dyslexia and ADHD. [I believe they refer to Bartlett v. New York State Bd. of Law Examiners, 156 F.3d 321 C.A.2 (N.Y.),1998. Up on appeal the Supreme Court remanded Bartlett, Bartlett v. New York State Bd. of Law Examiners, 226 F.3d 69, C.A.2 (N.Y.),2000. There is a final, unreported decision from the Southeren District of NY, Bartlett v. New York State Bd. of Law Examiners, Not Reported in F.Supp.2d, 2001 WL 930792, S.D.N.Y.,2001. I warn the reader that the decisions, while finding that there was a disability to be accommodated, are very detailed in finding the limitations and what levels of accommodation are required.]

Maine's bar examiners have made accommodations for people in the past, but have denied Montgomery and Jandreau, saying their disabilities do not limit them enough to justify changing the test rules.
In letters to both men, the board said it requires an applicant to show a more "broad-based and substantial impact" that went beyond their ability to perform on timed tests.

But Hansen says that interpretation of the law is out of step with court decisions, including a 2006 decision by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court that called for a more inclusive definition of disability.

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