Marino’s Legal News: Bar Examiners Sued By Exam Taker

In an important case involving the bar exam, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit just rejected a lawsuit which was filed by a Harvard Law School graduate against the New York State Board of Law Examiners over having been denied extra time to take the exam.

The plaintiff, Tamara Wyche, claimed to suffer from depression and anxiety as well as complications from a severe head injury. While she was a student at Harvard, she regularly received testing accommodations such as extra time, stop-clock breaks, and separate testing facilities.

Wyche asked for these same accommodations when taking the July 2013 bar exam, but her request was rejected. She then took the exam and failed. She tried again the next year, and at that point was granted some extra time and special seating, but not off-clock breaks. She failed again. As a consequence of her failure to pass the exam the second time, she was fired from her job at a law firm.

On her 3rd try taking the bar exam, Wyche was finally given double-time for the exam and passed.

In response to her first 2 attempts at the exam, Wyche sued the Board for discrimination against persons with disabilities. She argued that her failure on the first 2 attempts caused significant harm to her career, stating that her reputation at her law firm was diminished and that the extra time she had to study for the exam prevented her from taking on important legal matters with her firm.

In its defense, The Board argued that it was protected by the Doctrine of Sovereign Immunity. Wyche argued that the Board had waived any such immunity by receiving federal funding, and the district court agreed with her.

A three-judge panel of the Second Circuit, however, reversed.

One of the primary reasons was the Court’s finding that, during the relevant period from 2013 to 2015, The Board was only an indirect beneficiary of the federal funding, and that was insufficient to waive Sovereign Immunity. The only entities within the New York judiciary to receive federal grant money were specialized courts, including drug treatment courts, family courts and domestic violence courts that were considered separate from the rest of the New York State court system for budgetary purposes.

In reversing the district court’s decision, the 2nd Circuit sent the case back down to the trial court to reconsider the Board’s motion to dismiss.

You can read more about this case here.

At Marino Bar Review, many of our students have certain learning disabilities, which is why we have developed exam-taking strategies that specifically address these concerns and our bar exam tutors are experienced at working with and improving these students’ exam scores. If you have any of these issues, we urge you to make sure you apply early and send all necessary documentation to receive any and all test accommodations you are entitled to.