Ed. note: Welcome to our daily feature, Quote of the Day.
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 court’s 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.
— Sherry Levin Wallach, president of the New York State Bar Association, in a statement given following the New York state Appellate Division’s decision to revise a bar admission question that required applicants to reveal all prior encounters with law enforcement. “The four Departments of the Appellate Division have amended Question 26 of the Bar Admission Questionnaire to better promote equity and fairness in the character and fitness interview process,” Justices Rolando Acosta, Hector LaSalle, Elizabeth Garry and Gerald Whalen announced jointly. “[T]he Appellate Division seeks to advance the diversity of the bar by reducing the possible 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,” the justices said.
Wallach, however, doesn’t believe the justices have gone far enough. “We have advocated for the complete removal of Question 26 because even with the revisions the court announced, the question still asks for all juvenile proceedings in criminal court,” she said. “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.” New York previously removed all questions related to mental health from its bar exam application, thus eliminating a potential barrier to mental health treatment.
Staci Zaretsky is a senior editor at Above the Law, where she’s worked since 2011. She’d love to hear from you, so please feel free to email her with any tips, questions, comments, or critiques. You can follow her on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.
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