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QUESTIONS OF DISCRIMINATION: Singling out bar applicants with mental illness Emily Cooper, Disability Rights Washington NARPA Conference September 5, 2014,

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Presentation on theme: "QUESTIONS OF DISCRIMINATION: Singling out bar applicants with mental illness Emily Cooper, Disability Rights Washington NARPA Conference September 5, 2014,"— Presentation transcript:

1 QUESTIONS OF DISCRIMINATION: Singling out bar applicants with mental illness Emily Cooper, Disability Rights Washington NARPA Conference September 5, 2014, at 1PM 1

2 What is DRW? State designated “P&A” System* Private non-profit Federal mandate and access Serve people with all disabilities Directed by people with disabilities Sets annual priorities based on public feedback 2 * All DRW Services are Free

3 DRW’s Services Technical Assistance Public policy Systemic legal services for disability discrimination or violation of rights Education and training – like this one on bar application developments 3

4 A Character and Fitness Timeline 1970 ABA Model Code of PR “mental or emotional instability” 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act 1994 ABA C&F Resolution – consider privacy and tailor questions 1995 Clark v. Va. Bd. of Bar Exam’rs, 31 ask broad questions 2009 Study shows general trend of tailoring don’t ask any question (AZ, MA, IL, PA) & 3 don’t single out MI 2014 DOJ writes two guidance letters 2014 TN stops asking about mental health status 2014 DRW releases Questions of Discrimination 2014 Bazelon leads DOJ Settlement Agreement in LA 4

5 A Character and Fitness Timeline 1970 ABA Model Code of PR “mental or emotional instability” 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act 1994 ABA C&F Resolution – consider privacy and tailor questions 1995 Clark v. Va. Bd. of Bar Exam’rs, 31 ask broad questions 2009 Study shows general trend of tailoring don’t ask any question (AZ, MA, IL, PA) & 3 don’t single out MI 2014 DOJ writes two guidance letters 2014 TN stops asking about mental health status 2014 DRW releases Questions of Discrimination 2014 Bazelon leads DOJ Settlement Agreement in LA 5

6 Sanism and Practicing Law On “Sanism”: people with MI are: dangerous, incompetent, easily identifiable, Segregated Stigma Study: 59% “very comfortable” with wheel chair users, 47% with blindness, and only 19% with mental illness Bar inquiries to “protect the public” 6

7 Dispelling the Myth More likely to be victims of crime than commit crime Recidivism in WA (28%, 13%, and.6%) Examples: Lincoln – depression Churchill - depression Flaherty - bipolar Me - anxiety 7

8 2012 WSBA Membership Study SAMSHA: 20% of Washingtonians have a mental illness Only 1.3 % identified in the study; highest barrier intensity WSBA Conclusion: 8 “These results are troubling and further targeted study will be needed to ascertain fully the sources and causes of barriers to the legal profession for this group and to identify steps to reduce the incidence.”

9 9 Character and Fitness in WA 1.Question 24 2.Question 25 3.Forms 7 and 8 4.APR 22 5.APR 24.2

10 1. Question 24: During the past 5 years have you experienced, been diagnosed with, or undergone treatment for any condition or impairment (including, but not limited to, substance abuse or dependency, alcohol or dependency, or a mental condition, psychotic, mental, emotional, or nervous disorder or condition) which affects, or if untreated could affect your ability to practice law in a competent and professional manner? 10

11 2. Question 25: Within the past two years, have you engaged in or exhibited any conduct or behavior that could call into question your fitness to practice law as defined in APR 22(a)? 11

12 3. APR 22(a) Fitness - defined. Fitness is the absence of any current mental impairment or current drug or alcohol dependency or abuse which, if extant, would substantially impair the ability of the Applicant, Bar Association member, or Petitioner to practice law. 12

13 3. APR 22(a) Fitness - defined. Fitness is the absence of any current mental impairment or current drug or alcohol dependency or abuse which, if extant, would substantially impair the ability of the Applicant, Bar Association member, or Petitioner to practice law. 13

14 4. APR 24.2(d) Factors “Whether there is a current mental impairment.” “The nature, extent and duration of the Applicant's mental impairment.” “The Applicant's candor in the admissions process and before the Board when describing the impairment.” “Whether the applicant has received or is receiving professional mental health treatment appropriate for the impairment…” 14

15 4. APR 24.2(e) Prohibited Factors and WLAD WSBA can’t consider physical or learning disabilities All disabilities are protected against discrimination in RCW

16 16

17 The Results So Far… All three law schools joined 89 signatories (you can still sign!) ACLU wrote own letter Board of Governor’s Workgroup Media attention DOJ settlement in LA 17

18 The States Who Don’t Single Out… …Ask about conduct: Criminal charges Charged with fraud, conversion, breach of fiduciary duty Financial Discipline 18

19 The Shaming Effect Singles applicants out Increases the closet factor Reduces who seeks treatment Forces applicants to choose between rights and profession Sends a message to the public that mental illness means you aren’t or wouldn’t be a good lawyer 19

20 Things to Look For Data or stories regarding barriers Partners (WADA, GCDE, ACLU) State law Further DOJ developments Model APRs and applications 20

21 Emily Cooper, Staff Attorney 315 Fifth Avenue South, Suite 850 Seattle, WA V: or TTY: or

22 Bibliography 1.ABA Model Code of Professional Responsibility, “Preliminary Statement” (1970), 2.Clark v. Va. Bd. of Bar Exam’rs, 880 F.Supp. 430 (E.D. Va. 1995). 3.The ABA Resolution on Character and Fitness: olicy/1994_am_110.authcheckdam.pdf olicy/1994_am_110.authcheckdam.pdf 4.Theresa Esquerra, Mental Illness Disclosure Requirements on State Bar Moral Character and Fitness Applications: A Qualitative Study (2009) (supported by the 2009 Scattergood Emerging Scholars Fellowship, Active Minds), available at queera_mental_illness_disclosure_requirments_- _final_draft.pdf 22

23 Bibliography (cont.) 5. Jennifer McPherson Hughes, Suffering in Silence: Questions Regarding an Applicant's Mental Health on Bar Applications and Their Effect on Law Students Needing Treatment, Journal on Legal Professions, Vol. 28, page 187 ( ) 5.pdf 6. Michael L. Perlin, On “Sanism,” 46 SMU L. Rev. 373 (1992) 7. Jon Bauer, The Character of the Questions and the Fitness of the Process: Mental Health, Bar Admissions and the Americans with Disabilities Act, 49 UCLA L. Rev. 93, 99 (2001), 23

24 Bibliography (cont.) 8. Office of Technology Assessment, U.S. Congress, Psychiatric Disabilities, Employment, and the Americans with Disabilities Act 35 (1994). 9. See Joshua Wolf Shenk, Lincoln's Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness (2005).) 10. Melody Moezzi, “Lawyers of Sound Mind”, NY Times Op Ed, August 5, 2013 available at: sound-mind.html?_r=1& 24


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