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Md. judiciary postpones bar exam until September

bar-exam-620The two-day Maryland bar exam was postponed Tuesday until Sept. 9 and 10 due to concerns about the potential spread of the COVID-19 virus if the test were administered as scheduled in late July at the Baltimore Convention Center.

The September dates are tentative in light of uncertainty regarding the pandemic’s resilience and the evolution of federal and state health guidelines between now and then, Court of Appeals Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera stated in her rescheduling order.

The licensing test would be administered at multiple locations, which will be determined and announced at a later date, according to the order.

The exam was originally scheduled for July 28 and 29.

In her order, Barbera stated that “more than one thousand applications to sit for the July 2020 Maryland Bar Examination were received by the State Board of Law Examiners, which would create a congregate gathering far in excess of the current guidance” by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Maryland Department of Health.

Eighteen other states and the District of Columbia have also postponed their July bar exam, according to the National Conference of Bar Examiners.

The SBLE has said a postponement until early September would still permit the licensing exams to be graded and for successful examinees to be admitted on schedule in December.

As a contingency —  if admissions could not granted as scheduled — Barbera has formed a work group to address the feasibility and desirability of authorizing unlicensed, would-be attorneys to practice temporarily, provided they are overseen by those who have passed the bar and sworn the oath of admission.

The work group’s formation followed the American Bar Association Board of Governors’ recent approval of a resolution calling on states to authorize law school graduates denied an opportunity to take the July bar to practice law under supervision.

The eight-member Work Group to Study Temporary Licensing Under COVID-19 has an end date of Aug. 31, at which time it will submit its recommendations to the Court of Appeals.

The group is chaired by Court of Appeals Judge Joseph M. Getty. Other members are Court of Appeals Judge Brynja M. Booth; University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law Dean Donald Tobin; University of Baltimore School of Law Dean Ronald Weich; SBLE Chair Jonathan A. Azrael; SBLE Secretary Jeffrey C. Shipley; Bar Counsel Lydia Lawless; and attorney Irwin R. Kramer, representing the Maryland State Bar Association.

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