Bar Exam Taker Allowed to Remain Anonymous in Lawsuit
A law graduate hoping to receive extra time on the New York Bar Exam due to having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) to go forward with his suit anonymously, a New York federal judge has just ordered.
The individual, referred to pseudonymously as Richard Roe, has twice applied to the New York State Board of Law Examiners for disability accommodations and been “summarily” denied.
Due to how much personal information the suit would require him to reveal and stigma against mental health issues, Roe would rather withdraw his suit than disclose his identity, according to his motion. Forcing him to breach the privacy of his mental health diagnosis harms the public interest, Judge John Cronan ruled in his order.
“While the public has a legitimate interest in ensuring the fairness of defendant’s procedures for admitting lawyers to the bar, disclosure of plaintiff’s particular identity would not further that legitimate public interest,” Judge Cronan wrote.
The aspiring lawyer has been repeatedly denied extra time on the bar exam because he lacks documentation, according to his complaint. Roe explains he has legitimate reasons for being unable to present an extensive paper trail for his ADHD. He was diagnosed only in his second year of law school, in 2021, though he has suffered from concentration problems and resulting performance issues through his schooling, according to his complaint. Part of the reason for his late diagnosis was the stigma against mental health issues in his Arab-American Muslim family, which also compounds the difficulty of disclosing his identity now, according to Roe.
“His personal background may make him particularly vulnerable to the harms of disclosure,” Judge Cronan wrote.
The factors weighing in favor of Roe’s disclosing his identity are not particularly strong, Judge Cronan found. The public’s interest in this legal dispute over the bar exam is not harmed by Roe’s concealing his identity. Roe doesn’t seem to be at risk of retaliation from anyone if his identity were to be revealed, but his “genuine interest” in keeping his diagnosis private wins out.
Judge Cronan’s decision could change, he noted, if the Board, which has not yet filed any response in the case, successfully argues Roe should not be allowed to remain pseudonymous.
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