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Editorial


Front Page - Friday, July 10, 2020

Supreme Court cancels July 2020 bar examination




The Tennessee Supreme Court on July 2 issued an order canceling the July 28-29, 2020 administration of the Uniform Bar Examination in the state.

The court order cited Gov. Bill Lee’s expanded emergency order limiting gatherings and extending the duration of other requirements, the recent increase in confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Tennessee and the updated mandate limiting gatherings in Nashville to 25 people.

“Although stringent public health and safety protocols were planned for the administration of the July 2020 examination, the potential benefits of administering the examination do not justify the risk of assembling groups of people in a limited space for a multiday examination when another examination will be administered in Tennessee in two months,” the court said in a statement published on the Tennessee Board of Law Examiners’ website (www.tnble.org).

On July 1, Tennessee reported the largest single-day increase in new COVID-19 cases, the court said. During the preceding week, all three locations for the July 2020 exam (Knoxville, Memphis and Nashville) posted their highest single-day increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases, the court added.

Some of the largest increases statewide have been among people aged 22-35, the age group of the majority of those scheduled to take the bar examination, noted the court.

On July 2, the Nashville mayor announced a major reversal in that city’s plans to reopen.

“The Tennessee Supreme Court and the Board of Law Examiners are acutely aware of the toll the ongoing pandemic is taking on bar examination applicants and are committed to administering the Uniform Bar Examination in 2020 while making every effort to minimize the risks associated with the spread of the COVID-19 virus,” the court said.

All applicants for the July 2020 examination who have not been determined ineligible for the examination or who have not already transferred their application to the February 2021 examination should expect to sit for the fall examination in Tennessee, to be conducted Sept. 30-Oct. 1.

Applicants previously scheduled for the Sept. 30-Oct. 1 administration of the UBE will be tested on those dates, as well.

Exam applicants may practice

The Tennessee Supreme Court is allowing applicants to the Tennessee bar to practice pending admission. Law school graduates can begin working immediately drafting documents, meeting with clients and appearing in court, says Bill Harbison, president of the Board of Law Examiners.

In addition, applicants will be able to continue to practice even if the national health care crisis affects subsequent examinations.

“We know this has been a difficult time for recent law school graduates, and the board is committed to making the Uniform Bar Examination available to all July 2020 applicants before the end of the year, absent any new ‘safer at home’ orders or other significant changes,” Harbison adds.

Sources: Tennessee Board of Law

Examiners; Tennessee Supreme Court