NAPABA Organizational Statement: Coalition of Bar Associations of Color Urges State Bars to Enact Alternative Licensing Measures Amid COVID-19

For Immediate Release:
Date: August 19, 2020

Contact: Priya Purandare, Executive Director

WASHINGTON, DC — The Coalition of Bar Associations of Color (CBAC) issued the following statement in response to several proposals calling for alternatives to the traditional in-person bar examination used to license new attorneys as a direct response to the ongoing challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic:

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented extraordinary challenges to just about every aspect of how we conduct our lives. As lawyers, it is our duty to meet these extraordinary circumstances with grace and swiftness, and to adapt as necessary to ensure continued access to justice and protection of the rule of law. In this spirit, the Coalition of Bar Associations of Color supports ABA Resolution 10G strongly urging all state bars to cancel in-person or potentially vulnerable online administrations of the bar exam and consider adopting alternative methods of licensing new attorneys until a safe and secure method of administering a bar exam is available. This will protect the future of the legal profession and ultimately, our society.

Protection of the public in the administration of justice should remain the top priority of state bars. However, during the ongoing pandemic, traditional methods of testing, like large in-person exams, pose tremendous health risks to test takers and those around them and in many instances would violate government-issued restrictions to large gatherings.

Although we commend the states that opted to cancel in-person examinations in favor of online proctored exams, this method has met significant challenges in its administration. These challenges have included fairness, privacy, and technology concerns with the most recent example being the Florida bar. In Florida, bar examinees were informed of the cancellation of the online exam two days before its scheduled date due to numerous issues with the online proctoring system. No official new date or method of testing has been offered. The Michigan online bar exam system crashed during the examination. The State of Indiana encountered similar technology issues when the program was being tested, and they changed to an open book exam allowing answers to be emailed. The current infrastructure for online testing, which presents significant security concerns and glitches, is simply not workable for an exam of this magnitude and import.

As leaders of the Bar Associations of Color we are particularly concerned with the disparate impact that COVID-19 has had on communities of color and more specifically bar examinees of color. As noted in the report accompanying ABA Resolution 10G on this issue, a recent survey showed “a majority of bar applicants do not believe they have reliable internet access, and that white applicants are about 71 percent more likely to have such access when compared to black applicants.” The same survey noted that the majority of bar examinees “do not have access to a quiet space to take a remote bar examination, with white applicants again being substantially more likely to have access to a quiet place than an applicant of color.” People of color and non-traditional students, who have already faced and conquered institutional challenges to complete their legal education, will face additional barriers in the event of additional delays.

Further delays in licensing attorneys are unfair, placing the careers of thousands of attorneys in limbo. Instead, flexibility from state bars is of paramount importance. Adopting alternatives like open book examinations, extended CLE, a diploma privilege, or a Certified Legal Intern program that leads to a provisional license and then to full licensing within 3-6 months, is the most efficient way to adequately safeguard the futures of all bar examinees and the legal profession as a whole.

Additionally, the delays in testing have further exacerbated the stressful circumstances experienced by bar examinees. Graduates have been preparing since May for one of the most important examinations of their careers. To do so, they have sacrificed their income and time for an extended period. Many are facing severe financial difficulties, have no health insurance, and they are competing for jobs in one of toughest job markets in years. Further delays in licensing will disrupt employment plans and leave thousands of graduates with no way of supporting themselves or their families in a moment of global crisis.

Bar examinees have demonstrated their ardent commitment to the legal profession through their resiliency in the last months. The protection of the public in the administration of justice should be extended to bar examinees by decisive action from the state bars that they will serve in their long and successful careers. We call on state bars to consider the options set forth in ABA Resolution 10G that are most protective of bar examinees, their careers, their families, and the legal profession. Options include but are not limited to allowing diploma privileges, administration of remote open book examinations, and creation or expansion of certified legal intern programs leading directly to licensure, a form of diploma privilege.

###

The Coalition of Bar Associations of Color (CBAC) was established in 1992 and is comprised of the Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA), the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA), the National Bar Association (NBA), and the National Native American Bar Association (NNABA).

Collaborative Bar Leadership Academy | Apply Now!

Collaborative Bar Leadership Academy

Application Deadline: April 5, 2019 at 4 p.m. CST

Apply Here

Apply for the seventh annual Collaborative Bar Leadership Academy (CBLA) in Denver, Colorado from June 23 to 25, 2019. The CBLA is a collaborative effort among the American Bar Association, Hispanic National Bar Association, National Bar Association, National Native American Bar Association, and NAPABA. The CBLA will strengthen the pipeline of diverse bar association leaders through leadership training and professional development programs.

The CBLA is intended for up-and-coming bar leaders who have been in practice for 5-15 years and have served as officers of a NAPABA affiliate and/or chair/co-chair of a NAPABA committee.

Deadline | Apply by Wednesday, April 5

The application can be accessed here.

Applicants will be asked to submit a brief essay of 250-500 words, a CV/resume, and two letters of recommendation.

Questions?

More information about the program can be found on the CBLA website. Please contact CBLA Steering Committee members Gary Zhao (gzhao@salawus.com), Greg Schwartz (gschwartz@billionarmitage.com), Kristin Haugen (kc@kchaugenlaw.com) and Marianne Chow Newman (mwchow@hearst.com) with any questions.

Clemency Project 2014

Clemency Project 2014

National Bar Association President Pat Rosier’s Announcement about the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Thank you to Taa Grays, President of the Metropolitan Black Bar Association, for sharing this important statement from the National Bar Association.

Today we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Pushed through Congress by President Lyndon B. Johnson, it is arguably the most important legislation to come out of the Civil Rights Movement.

The most sweeping civil rights legislation since Reconstruction, the Civil Rights Act outlaws discrimination, ended racial segregation, and protected the voting rights of minorities and women. The Civil Rights Act opened the door for other significant and historic legislation such as the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

This milestone was the culmination of bipartisan Congressional leadership, peaceful protests, and determined activism from grassroots and national leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, and National Bar Association members Fred D. Gray, Thurgood Marshall, and others. However, in the 50 years since the Civil Rights Act became the law of the land, it’s clear that we still have much work to do.

Today, on behalf of the National Bar Association, the nation’s oldest and largest national network of predominantly African American lawyers, and the nearly 59,000 lawyers, judges, law professors and law students it represents throughout the United States and around the world, I submitted a letter to Patrick J. Leahy, Chairman of the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary and Chuck Grassley, Ranking Member of the same Committee, in support of the passage of the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014.

A year ago, the Supreme Court of the United States of America greatly weakened the Voting Rights Act of 1965, putting the right to vote in serious danger and in turn delivering a blow to the Civil Rights Act of ‘64. Currently, states and localities around the country are making changes to elections that would take away the right to vote for some people and African Americans are particularly at risk for voter discrimination. Excessively restrictive and discriminatory state laws disproportionately affect people of color, the poor and senior citizens. Every day that Congress fails to act, voters are in danger.

On this day, we celebrate the Civil Rights Act’s impact and acknowledge that we must continue to vigorously defend legislation that promotes equal justice. We urge this Congress, inspired by the bipartisan Congress that passed the Civil Rights Act, to pass the Voting Rights Act of 2014 and protect the right to vote for all Americans.

Patricia Rosier,
President

National Bar Association Accepting Applications for 2013 Advocacy Competition-Deadline February 28!

The National Bar Association (NBA) is accepting applications for its 2013 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drum Major for Justice Advocacy Competition. More than $25,000 in scholarships will be awarded to high school juniors and seniors who place in the regional and national competitions. To compete, eligible students must submit an essay by February 28, 2013. For the fourth consecutive year, MetLife is proud to be the Platinum sponsor of the program.

High school juniors and seniors from across the country are invited to submit an essay for the 2013 competition. In no more than 1,000 words, students should address the following issue: Consider how Trayvon Martin was killed walking to his home on February 26, 2012 by George Zimmerman, a Florida neighborhood watchman in a gated community. Some have justified Zimmerman’s actions based on Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. If Martin Luther King, Jr. were alive, would he advocate repealing this law and other similar laws? Please discuss why or why not.   

For more information, please visit www.nationalbar.org/mlkcompetition.

Drum Major for Justice Advocacy Competition

MetLife and the National Bar Association (NBA), announces the launch of the NBA 2012 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drum Major for Justice Advocacy Competition–an event designed to introduce high school junior and senior students of color to oral and written advocacy.  The participants of the competition have the opportunity to win over $25,000 in scholarships and prizes.

Find more details about the competition here or follow on Facebook.