New York State Bar Association Welcomes Revisions to The Bar Application, Urges Further Action To Encourage Diversity In The Legal Profession
Sherry Levin Wallach, president of the New York State Bar Association, issued the following statement today about the New York State courts’ decision to amend Question 26 of the Character and Fitness examination of the New York State bar application:
“We appreciate New York State’s courts acknowledgement of the chilling effect the previous Question 26 had on law school applicants due to the disproportionate rates of policing and prosecution experienced in communities of color. We support the decision to no longer require applicants for the bar to disclose citations, tickets, arrests, and other law enforcement encounters that did not result in criminal charges, indictment, trial, guilty plea, or conviction. This is the right thing to do – especially when it comes to juvenile delinquency proceedings in Family Court.
“The courts’ announcement today is a significant step forward in encouraging diversity in the legal profession. Unfortunately, Question 26 in its revised form will still have a chilling effect on potential applicants for the New York bar, particularly when we consider the over-policing of communities of color.
“We have advocated for the complete removal of Question 26 because even with the revisions the court announced today, the question still asks for all juvenile proceedings in criminal court. NY Human Rights Law Section 296 (15, 16) unequivocally precludes licensing agencies from posing questions about arrests that are not pending and sealed criminal convictions. Our association will continue to work with the New York State courts and law schools to address the remaining issues regarding Question 26 and to encourage diversity in our legal profession.”