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D.C. Appeals Court Delays Bar Exam Until September Due to Virus

May 4, 2020, 8:58 PM

The next District of Columbia bar exam will take place in September, as the nation’s capital falls in line with several states that have delayed their tests because of Covid-19-related public health concerns.

The D.C. bar exam will take place Sept. 9-10, one of two options for delay put forth by the National Conference of Bar Examiners, the D.C. Court of Appeals announced Monday. Because authorities will be following social distancing protocols, seating “almost certainly” will be limited, according to the order released Monday afternoon.

The exam being offered at multiple venues, the order said, and there will be public health precautions taken.

“Each examinee will be required to bring, and to wear at all times while in the examination venue, a face mask,” according to the order. Exam-takers may also be required to have their temperatures taken to gain entry.

“We understand the concern of recent law school graduates who are anxious to take the bar exam and begin their legal careers. We worked to balance that with overall public health and safety concerns,” said D.C. Court of Appeals Chief Judge Anna Blackburne-Rigsby in a statement. “We believe that the approach we have chosen will be safe and will allow potential exam-takers the opportunity to become a member of the D.C. Bar just a few months later than usual.”

The court left the door open for several alternative scenarios, including a possible provisional license, which a growing list of states such as New York and Pennsylvania have allowed. These temporary licenses allow law school graduates to begin practicing sooner than they would have, if they agree to be supervised and fulfill other requirements until they can take and pass the bar at a later date.

If the court determines that it will be unable safely to administer the bar exam as planned in the fall, it may turn to provisional licensure, the order says, or licensure based on a period of supervised practice. It may also decide to conduct an online examination with remote proctoring.

Several states have delayed or canceled their exams originally scheduled for July 28-29. Some, like California, are weighing whether to offer their exams online.

Another, Utah, is the only state so far to grant a type of “emergency diploma privilege,” an option that a group of law students and others support that would allow new grads to skip the bar exam entirely.

The D.C. appellate court canceled their July exam dates last month, citing the likelihood of continued prohibitions on large gatherings.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sam Skolnik in Washington at sskolnik@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rebekah Mintzer at rmintzer@bloomberglaw.com; Tom P. Taylor at ttaylor@bloomberglaw.com

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