Bennett v. State Bar of Nevada

746 P.2d 143 (1987)

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Bennett v. State Bar of Nevada

Nevada Supreme Court
746 P.2d 143 (1987)

Facts

Supreme Court Rule (SCR) 51(3) provided that an applicant for a license to practice law in the State of Nevada must have received a law degree from an institution accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA). In 1984 the Nevada School of Law (NSL), an unaccredited law school, sought a waiver of SCR 51(3) from the Nevada Supreme Court and was denied. However, the court granted conditional relief to graduates of the school based on several findings, including: (1) that the school had made significant progress with its facilities and legal education; and (2) that NSL would be able to apply for ABA provisional accreditation by the fall of 1985. Based on these findings, the Nevada Supreme Court ordered that if NSL achieved ABA provisional accreditation by August 31, 1988, any student who graduated before that time would satisfy SCR 51(3). The court also allowed NSL graduates to sit for the bar examination provided that they completed additional courses. Admission for NSL graduates would be deferred until NSL’s provisional accreditation. In September 1986, the school applied to the ABA for provisional accreditation. After an ABA inspection team examined the school and reported its findings, NSL’s application was denied. The ABA, in denying NSL’s accreditation, cited problems with its faculty retention and long-term financial stability. In May 1987, NSL attempted but failed to donate its school to the University of Nevada, and NSL decided to shut down. As a result, NSL graduates were not able to satisfy the condition that NSL receive accreditation. A group of NSL graduates (plaintiffs) petitioned the Nevada Supreme Court for a waiver of SCR 51(3), contending that waiver was appropriate because they received an education functionally equivalent to that provided by an ABA-accredited law school. The State Bar of Nevada (defendants) did not object to the petition.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Gunderson, C.J.)

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