April 15, 2014 -- State Bars will soon be reviewing the questions they ask of law graduates who seek admission to the Bar. The National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) has informed State Bars that it plans on changing NCBE’s recommended questions concerning the mental health diagnosis and treatment of applicants for the Bar in response to a finding by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) that its current questions about mental health diagnosis and treatment violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Unfortunately, because the planned changes do not go far enough, they will not end State Bars’ discrimination against applicants who have received mental health treatment.
You can have an impact on whether your State Bar adopts the NCBE’s new questions. Due to the advocacy of the disability community, several state Bars no longer ask questions about the mental health diagnosis and treatment of individuals seeking to practice law. Recently, in Tennessee, the State Bar was persuaded to follow the same course. In California, the State Bar has removed its question asking about mental health diagnosis and treatment. We urge you to contact your State Bar and encourage them to join the ranks of those who have abandoned intrusive and discriminatory questions about applicants’ mental health.
To aid your advocacy, the Bazelon Center has drafted a memorandum including a description of DOJ’s actions and of the inadequacies of NCBE’s response that can be found here.