Calls for July bar exam to be postponed due to surge in COVID-19 cases in Arizona

It's a test that draws hundreds of law graduates from across Arizona, but amid the surge in coronavirus cases across the state, there is now a push to postpone the bar exam that is set to take place later in July at the Phoenix Convention Center.

According to the Arizona Judicial Branch, Arizona offers the Uniform Bar Examination in February and July, and it lasts two days. The July exam is set to take place on the last Tuesday and Wednesday of July. For 2020, the date falls on July 28 and 29.

Test-takers, lawmakers ask for postponement

Bar exams are normally stressful enough for law students, even without an infectious disease pandemic.

"We don’t have the support systems we're used to," said Kateyn Hilde, who is taking the bar exam at the end of the month. "I can’t go around my grandparents, limiting time around my parents. We don’t have the study resources. we can’t go to the library.”

Hilde is one of hundreds of students slated to take the in-person bar exam while COVID-19 numbers are spiking.

"There are 650 applicants split up between three rooms," said Hilde. "There’s roughly 200 people per room, and we know right now In closed spaces and air conditioning are all factors in the spread of COVID.”

Hilde was part of a group of students asking the Supreme Court for options, and State Representative Diego Rodriguez is part of a group of Arizona House Democrats who sent a letter urging the postponement of the in-person exam

“What you’re going to have is 600-700 people in the same facility for at least six hours a day, breathing in that same air," said State Rep. Rodriguez, who represents District 27. The district covers portions of Downtown Phoenix, South Phoenix, and a portion of land south of Ahwatukee and Chandler.

The group is also asking for the consideration of diploma privilege, allowing law school graduates to practice with the option of taking an exam later.

"If the Supreme Court wants to grant a diploma privilege in the short term, and later on ask those granted that privilege to take a competency exam, they can do that," said State Rep. Rodriguez.

Arizona Supreme Court responds

On Tuesday night, FOX 10 obtained, from officials with the Arizona Supreme Court, a statement that addressed some of the concerns regarding the bar exam.

On the issue of diploma privilege, the statement reads that the state's Supreme Court has met and decided not to grant it. The court, however, developed four options for this year's exam-takers, which would allow a test-taker to:

  1. Sit for the bar exam in July
  2. Take a remote National Conference of Bar Examiners exam on October 5 and 6 that will only allow for the test-taker, if they pass, to practice law in Arizona and not anywhere else. Those who choose this option can take another bar exam in February 2021.
  3. Sit for a later exam
  4. Delay the taking of bar exam until February, and work under the supervision of a license Arizona attorney

On July 1, officials with the Arizona Supreme Court issued a statement, saying that exam space for the July 28 and 29 exam is "designed to comply with current health protocols to protect against the spread of the coronavirus." The measures include only allowing one test-taker per six-foot table, mask requirements, and health screening.

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