Pencils Down! Bar License Denied for Writing After Time Was Called

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Pencil1Those of you taking the February bar exam this week (including those suffering through it in Missouri after two feet of snow and a power outage) might want to take note. As is usually the case, the coverup was considered worse than the actual crime, but it remains true that a woman who took the Ohio bar exam last year will have to reapply because she kept writing after time expired.

This is despite the fact that she passed the test even after being given a zero on the most important question as a penalty.

As a preview of the camaraderie that is rampant amongst members of the bar nowadays, the woman's heinous transgression was reported by another test taker, who claimed that she had continued to write for "up to 30 seconds" after time was called on one set of questions, and then for "45 to 60 seconds" on two other sets. The person sitting right next to her, though, told the examiners that he had seen her writing for "maybe a second or two" past the deadline on the first day, and a little longer on the second, "long enough to get at least two lines of writing on paper." My speed-scribbling skills have atrophied since I took the bar, but I think I could have scrawled out two lines in 10-15 seconds. So the evidence was mixed.

After hearing this testimony—yes, an evidentiary hearing on the issue of whether she wrote after time was called—the examiners concluded that she had violated the rules, but had not intended to do so. They threw out one of her four essay answers to punish her for the negligent sentence-finishing. But she still passed.

But then the Character and Fitness board got involved, and this is where the coverup, such as it was, became an issue. The board was concerned that the woman had first "adamantly denied" the excessive writing, and accused her accusers of lying. She was also hostile to the idea of an evidentiary hearing. She did show up, though, and on direct she stuck to her guns. But on cross, according to the opinion, "she began to waiver [sic]," saying that while she didn't remember doing it "I would say that I guess it is possible." The board seems to have stopped short of accusing her of lying, suggesting that precisely because she was "not the type of person to cheat" it was possible that "she cannot allow herself to remember" that she did. It recommended denying her application.

The Ohio Supreme Court agreed the woman had not met her burden to show by "clear and convincing evidence" that she was fit to practice law. It did not get into detail, but rather just listed the relevant standards and agreed with the board. It did say that she could reapply the next time around (this month, actually), and that because she had in fact passed the bar exam despite the penalty, she would not have to take it again. Hopefully she hasn't done anything else she might have done for less than a minute but can't remember later.

The evidence here seems pretty weak, and under the circumstances it may be completely understandable why she was "hostile" at first. Throwing out one of the essays seems like more than enough punishment for this. Not fit to practice law? Have you seen some of the people who are out there practicing law? Orly Taitz has a license, for God's sake. (Granted, that's California's fault.)

Having said that, when they tell you to stop writing, stop. The rest of that sentence won't make any difference.