Test Takers with Disabilities Sue State Bar of California for Forcing them to Test in-person During the Covid-19 Pandemic

Logos of DREDF and Legal Aid at Work

SAN FRANCISCO (Sept. 15, 2020) – Three people with disabilities filed a federal lawsuit against the State Bar of California and the National Conference of Bar Examiners, alleging that they discriminate against people with disabilities.

In order to protect the health and safety of test takers and the general public, the State Bar is offering, for the first time, an online examination for most test takers. But it specifically excluded disabled test takers from the remote administration of the Bar exam if they cannot stay in front of the webcam for the entirety of each test section, if they need a paper iteration of the exam or physical scratch paper, or if they use screen-reading software.

The lawsuit was filed by Disability Rights, Education, and Defense Fund (DREDF) and Legal Aid at Work—both legal nonprofits.  The case was filed in federal court in San Francisco on behalf of Kara Gordon, Isabel Callejo-Brighton, and John Doe—three test takers with disabilities who were approved for testing accommodations by the State Bar. The plaintiffs have underlying medical conditions or live with people who are at higher risk of severe complications should they contract COVID-19.  The plaintiffs are asking the court to stop the State Bar and National Conference of Bar Examiners from discriminating against people with disabilities and to permit them to take the exam remotely with their accommodations in place.

DREDF Litigation Director Claudia Center says, “the State Bar is creating a two-tiered system which is unfair and dangerous to plaintiffs and other disabled test takers who are being forced to test in person.”

Jinny Kim, Director of the Disability Rights Program at Legal Aid at Work, says, “during our public health emergency, the State Bar is acting irresponsibly by forcing test takers to risk their lives to show up in person simply because they need disability accommodations.”

A copy of the complaint can be found here.

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About Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund:

The Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF), founded in 1979, is a leading national civil rights law and policy center directed by individuals with disabilities and parents who have children with disabilities. Our mission is to advance the civil and human rights of people with disabilities through legal advocacy, training, education, and public policy and legislative development.  Details: www.dredf.org

About Legal Aid at Work:

Legal Aid at Work (formerly Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center) delivers on the promise of justice for low-income people. We provide free direct services through our clinics and helplines. We offer extensive legal information for free online and in trainings, we litigate individual and class actions, and we advocate for new policies and laws. Details: www.legalaidatwork.org.

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