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New York lawmaker calls on chief judge to offer alternatives to in-person bar exam

New York Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris, D-Astoria.

(The Center Square) – State Sen. Michael Gianaris, D-Astoria, is looking to New York’s Chief Judge Janet DiFiore to prepare alternatives for law students who are scheduled to take the bar exam in early September.

The bar exam is overseen by the state’s Court of Appeals, headed by Judge DiFiore.

“The bar exam is stressful under normal circumstances – months of studying leading to a lengthy exam in a crowded room,” said Gianaris, the Senate Deputy Leader. “That is simply unwise and impossible to execute this year.”

The exam already has been delayed once, from July to Sept. 9-10.

“Looking for exam alternatives, including moving the exam online and offering diploma privileges, would prevent a public health catastrophe when recent law school graduates are scheduled to sit for this exam,” Gianaris said.

As many as 10,000 candidates have taken the July exam in recent years.

On Monday, Gianaris sent a letter to Judge DiFiore outlining possible solutions, including diploma privilege, which would allow some law students to forgo the exam and get automatic admittance to the bar.

“Even if the spread of COVID-19 cases in New York remains manageable enough to make an in-person exam possible for September, there remains an immense public health risk to test-takers,” the letter said.

Gianaris notes that at least five states, Massachusetts, Michigan, Indiana, Louisiana, and Nevada, as well as Washington, D.C., have opted to offer an online exam.

Oregon, Utah and Washington have said “emergency diplomas” will be granted to certain law school graduates.

“Though the Task Force on the New York Bar Examination expressed reservations about these alternative methods, the risks associated with a further postponement or the holding an in-person exam in September 2020 are too great to be ignored,” the letter said.

The New York Board of Law Examiners notified candidates in a June 30 email that the September exam may again need to be postponed.

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