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Clark v. Virginia Board of Bar Examiners

880 F. Supp. 430 (1995)

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Clark v. Virginia Board of Bar Examiners

United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia

880 F. Supp. 430 (1995)

Facts

Julie Ann Clark (plaintiff) graduated from George Mason University Law School and sought licensure from the Virginia Board of Bar Examiners (defendant) to practice law in Virginia. Clark passed the bar exam, but she was denied licensure for her refusal to answer the examiner’s questions regarding her history of mental or emotional disorders. The board required applicants to answer two questions on its character-and-fitness questionnaire, which were aimed to identify those with severe mental or emotional problems that would impede their practice of law. The first question asked applicants whether they had been treated or counseled for any mental, emotional, or nervous disorders within the past five years. If applicants answered yes to the first question, the second question asked them to provide specific treatment information. Clark had been treated for recurrent depression for 13 months a few years prior to submitting her application to sit for the bar. However, when Clark applied, she left the two questions blank believing that they violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Clark retained legal counsel and negotiated an agreement, which allowed her to sit for the bar exam without answering the questions. However, the board refused to grant Clark a license, although she passed the exam, and it did not raise any other objections to Clark’s character or fitness to practice law. Clark sued the board in a United States district court, arguing that the only barrier to her licensure was her failure to answer the board’s discriminatory mental-health questions.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Cacheris, C.J.)

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