[nfb-talk] NATIONAL CONFERENCE OF BAR EXAMINERS (NCBE) DISCRIMINATES AGAINST BLIND AND LOW VISION LAW SCHOOL GRADUATES

Freeh, Jessica JFreeh at nfb.org
Tue Nov 3 20:49:52 CST 2009


NEWS 
RELEASE 


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

November 3, 2009





CONTACTS:

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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