The COVID-19 surge in Colorado may be as devastating as the outbreak in neighboring (technically) Arizona, but the seven-day rolling average in new cases has doubled in less than a month. While the death toll in the state has, mercifully, remained low and ICUs are not presently overcrowded, we’ve already seen how quickly that can turn once infections begin to spike.
Faced with this, some graduates put together a petition boasting over 1,300 signatures begging for an alternative to the in-person July bar exam, offering emergency diploma privilege and a remote bar exam as possible options. Recognizing the threat to the safety of law school graduates, the Colorado Supreme Court flatly declined to take up the petition:
I know the mascot is the buffalo, but that doesn’t mean the state has to buffalo its prospective lawyers.
Earlier in the week, the bar examiners had amended the safety protocols, mandating that applicants wear masks throughout the exam — other states are attempting to provide enough social distancing to arguably allow masks to come off once seated — and reducing the occupancy at various testing sites, which will host between 36 and 122 people. Still, as University of Denver Law Professor Nancy Leong points out, “The conditions of the bar exam are IDEAL for a superspreader event.”
But they’re going to press onward and, at present, have not communicated any intention to adjust the cut score for applicants subjecting themselves to this circus. Which is interesting because…
On Tuesday, hundreds of applicants registered their outrage when the attorney regulation counsel for the state’s high court was quoted in the Denver Post dismissing those calling for diploma privilege as “individuals who don’t want to take the bar exam.” For her part, she’s written Above the Law claiming to have been misquoted by the Denver Post, though declining in her email to state what she actually said. As of this writing, the Denver Post is still running with the quote as presented. We’ll let you know if that changes.
But, regardless of the precise quote, the message applicants took away from the story was that representatives of the state supreme court were openly hostile to their request. The decision to unceremoniously pass on the petition confirmed those fears.
The only equitable solution to this unfortunate episode comes from Willamette Law’s David Friedman:
Colorado’s justices are appointed by the governor but must stand in retention elections. Any justice that doesn’t show up and spend the whole test session in-person as a proctor should be roundly rejected at the ballot box next time up.
It’s the very least Colorado can do.
Earlier: Bar Exam Spokesperson Tells Newspaper That Folks Worried About Health Are Just Lazy
Colorado Accidentally Sent Out Bar Results, Said They Were Fake, But They Were Real
Joe Patrice is a senior editor at Above the Law and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. Feel free to email any tips, questions, or comments. Follow him on Twitter if you’re interested in law, politics, and a healthy dose of college sports news. Joe also serves as a Managing Director at RPN Executive Search.