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Democratic Lawmakers Push For Change To Arizona's Bar Exam

Published: Thursday, July 9, 2020 - 5:40pm

Would-be lawyers in Arizona have until Friday to decide if they want to take the state bar exam in-person at the end of July, or delay their careers and take the test online in October.

A handful of House Democrats wrote a letter expressing their concerns that applicants for the bar exam — many recent Arizona law school grads — will be required to sit together for two consecutive days while the test is administered.

The exam is scheduled for July 28 and July 29. Students will be spread out in exhibition halls at the Phoenix Convention Center.

Lawmakers, including Democratic Rep. Charlene Fernandez, wrote that confining test-takers during the pandemic could contribute to the spread of the coronavirus.

“An outbreak resulting from a prolonged, two-day, indoor gathering the size of the bar exam could overwhelm our local health care systems,” Democrats wrote. “To bring together hundreds of people, many coming in from other cities and states, and require them to sit in a room together for 7+ hours per day is a dangerous proposition at this time.”

Pressure from legislators comes after the Arizona Supreme Court, which administers the state’s bar exam, rejected a petition submitted by dozens of bar applicants asking the state to grant them diploma privileges.

Diploma privileges would allow recent graduates from Arizona law schools temporary admission to the bar and the right to practice law, in a limited capacity.

Those privileges would end once it’s safe to take the bar.

Jerry Landau, director of government affairs at the Arizona Supreme Court, wrote to lawmakers that they’ve already provided students wary of taking the in-person test an alternative — the exam will be administered online in October.

Applicants must decide which option they prefer by July 10.

Landau also wrote that the court must consider the public’s right to quality legal representation.

“Unfortunately, the passage for the AZ July exam tends to be around 66%,” Landau wrote. “We cannot admit students unable to pass anymore than admitting CPA’s or doctors who don’t pass their exams.”