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D.C. Cir. Revives Suit by Man Seeking 5th Chance to Pass Bar

Dec. 28, 2018, 8:03 PM

A man who failed the D.C. bar exam four times may get to sit for the test again after a federal appeals court revived his lawsuit against the district’s bar admission committee and its mayor’s office.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit Dec. 28 ordered a federal judge to revisit Clarence Jackson’s lawsuit after finding that none of the judicial doctrines cited by the judge warranted dismissing Jackson’s case.

Jackson claimed the denial of his application to sit for the exam a fifth time interfered with his constitutional rights and violated federal disability law. He filed lawsuits in both D.C. and federal court. The D.C. litigation ended when a trial court found it didn’t have authority to hear the dispute.

Jackson’s federal court lawsuit wasn’t barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, because he wasn’t trying to undo a state court loss, the D.C. Circuit said. Rooker-Feldman generally prevents lower federal courts from reviewing state court decisions.

And the Younger doctrine, which prevents federal courts from interfering with certain state court proceedings, didn’t apply because no relevant state court litigation was currently pending, the D.C. Circuit said.

Nor was Jackson’s case barred by res judicata, the doctrine preventing litigants from rehashing issues that have already been decided in court. The lawsuit Jackson brought in state court was dismissed because the court said it lacked authority to hear the case, and not because it made a decision about the merits of his claims, the D.C. Circuit said.

Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson wrote the decision. Judges Thomas B. Griffith and Robert L. Wilkins joined.

Jackson represented himself. The D.C. attorney general represented the defendants.

The case is Jackson v. Office of Mayor of D.C., D.C. Cir., No. 17-7056, 12/28/18.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jacklyn Wille in Washington at jwille@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at jmeyer@bloomberglaw.com; C. Reilly Larson at rlarson@bloomberglaw.com

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