Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Bar Exam Application Questions Raise Mental Health Concerns

To be considered for admission to the Connecticut Bar, law students endure a lengthy application process. Article VI of the Connecticut Bar Examining Committee Regulations allows the committee to specifically ask applicants about their treatment for “mental health and chemical or psychological dependency matters.” The committee asks these questions as a means of fulfilling its duty to those seeking legal services and because the committee wants to ensure that a mental health condition will not interfere with an applicant’s ability to practice law.

These mental health questions have always been controversial. Many argue that these questions prevent law students from seeking much needed treatment for fear that they will not be admitted to the bar. Additionally, many argue that only medical professionals should be privy to the confidential information these questions yield. The Bar Examining Committee has attempted over the years to narrow the questions in order to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.  A new call to review these questions was initiated this past December when David Borden, a former Connecticut Supreme Court Justice, raised the issue at a meeting of the Connecticut Bar Examining Committee.

Approximately one-fourth of adult Americans have some form of mental illness. Hartford Hospital’s Stop the Stigma! campaign represents a Connecticut effort to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health. With this growing discussion on mental health, it will be interesting to see whether the Connecticut Bar Examining Committee will make any changes to the bar examination application.