U.S. Department of Justice Rebukes Louisiana’s Bar Admissions Process

DOJ Letter re Bar AdmissionsIn a February 5, 2013 letter to the Louisiana Supreme Court, the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice describes serious problems with “Louisiana’s attorney licensure system,” that “violate the standards of applicable civil rights laws.” More particularly:

[W]e find that Louisiana’s attorney licensure system discriminates against bar applicants with disabilities by: (1) making discriminatory inquiries regarding bar applicants’ mental health diagnoses and treatment; (2) subjecting bar applicants to burdensome supplemental investigations triggered by their mental health status or treatment as revealed during the character and fitness screening process; (3) making discriminatory admissions recommendations based on stereotypes of persons with disabilities; (4) imposing additional financial burdens on people with disabilities; (5) failing to provide adequate confidentiality protections during the admissions process; and (6) implementing burdensome, intrusive, and unnecessary conditions on admission that are improperly based on individuals’ mental health diagnoses or treatment.

The irrational methods and procedures Louisiana uses to evaluate the character and fitness of bar applicants have long been questionable. It is refreshing to see that someone else has noticed and may—and can—do something to fix them.