National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) Discriminates Against Blind and Low Vision Law School Graduates

November 3, 2009

OAKLAND, Calif. – A suit filed today in Federal court alleges that The National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) discriminates against blind and low vision law school graduates. The suit charges that the NCBE is violating Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and California’s civil rights law by denying accommodations on the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE) and the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE) to a law school graduate who is blind.

The Plaintiff is represented with the support of the National Federation of the Blind (“NFB”) by Labarre Law Offices, P.C., in Denver, CO, and by Brown, Goldstein & Levy, LLP, in Baltimore, MD. The Plaintiff is further represented by Disability Rights Advocates (DRA), a non-profit law center that specializes in civil rights cases on behalf of persons with disabilities, based in Berkeley, CA.

The NCBE provides standardized examinations for the testing of applicants for admission to the practice of law. Two of the tests it controls, the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE) and the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE) are required for admission to the bar by most states. The California Bar examination has two sections; a California section and the MBE. Although both parts of the exam are administered by the California State Bar, the NCBE controls the type of accommodations each state can offer test takers with disabilities for the MBE portion of the bar exam.

Even though the California State Bar is a named Defendant in the suit, they have offered to provide the Plaintiff with all the accommodations she requested for the California section of the bar examination. However, the NCBE refuses to allow the California Bar Examiners to give the Plaintiff certain of the accommodations that she needs on the MBE portion of the bar exam. The California State Bar is fulfilling its legal obligation and is only named in the complaint as an indispensable party. Plaintiff hopes that the lawsuit will convince the NCBE to follow the California State Bar’s example and provide the requested accommodations on the MBE portion of the bar exam.

The NCBE has also denied Plaintiff the accommodations at issue on the MPRE exam. This is a separate exam that bar applicants need to pass to be admitted to practice. The ACT is also named in the complaint since it administers the MPRE examination for NCBE and is thus also an indispensable party.

The Plaintiff Stephanie Enyart is a law school graduate who is legally blind and requires accommodations to take the MBE and MPRE. She has requested to take the exams on a laptop computer equipped with screen reading (JAWS) and screen magnification (ZoomText) software. Ms. Enyart has relied on this combination of assistive technology as an accommodation on her exams throughout law school and in her current legal work.

The NCBE has refused to allow Ms. Enyart these reasonable accommodations for the MBE and MPRE on several occasions during the past years. In recent discussions with Plaintiff’s counsel, the NCBE has indicated that it will continue to deny Ms. Enyart her requested accommodations. Instead, the NCBE has offered alternative accommodations that are not suited to Ms. Enyart’s disability and are not effective. The NCBE’s denials of accommodations are preventing Ms. Enyart from obtaining admission to the bar, impeding her career.

Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), supporting the lawsuit, said “Too often law students who are blind or have low vision have to prolong their prospects for licensing while they fight to get the same accommodations they’ve had throughout their educational history. Those that opt to settle for inadequate accommodations usually struggle to pass or sometimes do not pass at all. Those who control admission to the practice of law must obey the law.”

Janice Ta, President of the National Association of Law Students with Disabilities (NALSWD), which expressed support for the lawsuit, said “The legal profession must recognize and be prepared for the spectrum of conditions and disabilities that law students have. Testing entities need to be open to a wide range of accommodations. But we find that time and again they don’t seem to understand their obligation for providing individualized accommodations and adaptive technologies that reflect the way real law students with disabilities get tested, study, and make their way around the world.”

ONTACTS:

Chris Danielsen, Director of Public Relations, NFB, (410) 659-9314, ext. 2330
Scott Labarre, Labarre Law Offices, P.C., (303) 504-5979
Daniel Goldstein, Brown, Goldstein & Levy, LLP, (410) 962-1030
Larry Paradis, Disability Rights Advocates, (510) 665-8644

Reproduced from http://www.dralegal.org/#skip-navigation