[nfb-talk] NATIONAL CONFERENCE OF BAR EXAMINERS (NCBE) DISCRIMINATES AGAINST BLIND AND LOW VISION LAW SCHOOL GRADUATES
JFreeh at nfb.org
Tue Nov 3 20:49:52 CST 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 3, 2009
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
NATIONAL CONFERENCE OF BAR EXAMINERS (NCBE) DISCRIMINATES AGAINST
BLIND AND LOW VISION LAW SCHOOL GRADUATES
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."
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