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Gianaris urges state to administer remote bar exam

July 15, 2020 David Brand
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Astoria State Sen. Michael Gianaris has urged the state court system to administer the bar exam remotely to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and avoid another test postponement.

In a letter to New York Chief Judge Janet DiFiore Tuesday, Gianaris recommended that the state Court of Appeals consider remote testing to allow attorneys to pass the test, gain admission to the bar and get jobs as debts mount. The Court of Appeals establishes lawyer-licensing requirements.

“Preparing for the bar exam is itself a stressful venture, made more intense by the threat of a global pandemic,” wrote Gianaris, the senate’s deputy majority leader. “This further necessitates that test-taking conditions be as comfortable and safe as possible.”

The state had previously rescheduled the July exam to Sept. 9 and 10, but the nationwide surge of COVID-19 threatens to force another postponement. Law school graduates yet to pass the bar exam can still perform some legal work, but at a significantly lower pay rate than bar-admitted attorneys.

“To again postpone the bar exam would be financially damaging for candidates who already have legal jobs paying a lower rate until bar exam passage,” Gianaris said. “Others may not be able to attain employment to begin with until they have taken and passed the exam.”

Gianaris cited the measures enacted by five other states, including neighboring Massachusetts, to offer online bar exams. Some states have also granted “emergency diplomas” to some law school graduates.

“The risks associated with a further postponement or the holding an in-person exam in September 2020 are too great to be ignored,” Gianaris said.

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