Update On The Summer 2020 California Bar & Baby Bar Exams
According to the California State Bar, the current coronavirus pandemic has caused it to consider all possible options for administering the July bar exam. After discussions with the National Conference of Bar Examiners and other jurisdictions, the State bar finally made a formal announcement in the middle of April. It announced that it was presently considering two different scenarios for the Bar Examination and the First-Year Bar Examination.
Health experts expect the COVID-19 pandemic to extend into the fall and winter, at least, until a vaccine is made commercially available to the general public. States such as New Jersey, New York, and Hawaii have already canceled their July bar exams.
Like any state’s bar exam, the California bar exam is held in a site capable of serving a substantial number of people. Unlike most state bar exams which are held in one or maybe two locations, the California bar exam is held in several places throughout the state, each accommodating several hundred test-takers in a single venue. Each location where the California Bar Exam is scheduled to take place offers the potential for placing test takers and administrators at an increased risk of infection, thus increasing the curve of infection and further endangering public health and safety.
On April 14, 2020, the Board of Trustees of the State of California announced their proposed recommendations to the California Supreme Court regarding both the July 2020 Bar Exam and the June 2020 First-Year Law Exam (“Baby Bar”). Uncertainty has surrounded both state exams since early March when the national quarantine caused by the coronavirus first began. The urgent request that people stay at home and social distance has caused many to suggest the suspension of the bar exam. Some have even suggested the institution of alternate diploma privilege measures.
The Board’s proposal to the California Supreme Court includes two possible scenarios. The first scenario involves the First-Year Law Exam presented and taken online and on schedule in June 2020, while the Bar Exam would be postponed to September 9th and 10th. The second scenario involves postponing the First-Year Law Exam to November 2020 and canceling the Bar Exam indefinitely. A Task Force would be created to determine how 2020 graduates would next proceed on their path to professional licensing.
The first scenario, which includes moving the test to September, would allow the State Bar the time to prepare and work to be ready to administer the exam in person, online or a combination of the two by the time the test is administered in the late summer.
If the California State Bar admission office closures or prohibitions against large gatherings remain in effect, the State Bar has made several modifications to the processing of moral character applications during the pandemic.
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