The Legal Beat
Bar Examiners Published List Of Passing Candidates… It Was Wrong
Posted on Thursday November 15, 2018
While other recent grads wait with bated breath to see whether or not they successfully passed the bar exam, D.C. test-takers learned their fates from a publicly released roster of passing candidates last Friday. Or at least they thought they did. It turns out some of them were just taking their first steps onto an emotional rollercoaster played out for all the world to watch.
On Friday, the District of Columbia bar examiners published its list of passing candidates, only to learn on Tuesday, as they finalized the individual exam score notices, that a clerical error assigned some scores to the wrong candidates meaning a bunch of folks thought they’d passed when they didn’t and a bunch of folks thought they’d failed when they didn’t.
When reached for comment, the Committee on Admissions walked through the remedial process.
Staff realized the gravity of this situation and worked to address it as quickly as possible. The incorrect list was immediately taken off the Courts’ website and the corrected list was posted by 8:30pm that evening along with a notice explaining what had occurred. COA staff personally called the 25 people who were impacted (13 whose names were erroneously included on the list of those who passed the exam and 12 whose names were erroneously omitted from the list). All 25 have now been contacted either by phone or – if not reachable by phone – by email.
Grading mistakes should not be happening on an exam of this importance, but realistically these errors are going to happen over a long enough timeline. When I took the bar exam, a handful of people I knew were left off the passing list and it took upwards of a week to rectify the situation. By comparison, D.C.’s quick response is to be commended.
But these errors underscore the folly of the practice of publishing the names of passing candidates. Why exactly do we need a public notice of who passed the bar exam? Ostensibly there’s some anachronistic “Town Square” nonsense about keeping the public assured of who’s actually a lawyer. Probably some New England bulls**t from when we needed to know who to call to defend a routine witchcraft matter.
But even that excuse doesn’t justify publishing test results. Put out a list when new lawyers are finally sworn in — long after all potential grading mishaps are resolved and candidates clear every character and fitness hurdle. It’s not like these people can hold themselves out as attorneys until sworn in anyway so there’s no need for the public to know squat until they can.
Publishing these names just puts test takers through another level of unnecessary public humiliation. It’s bad enough to get the wrong result, but having their travails watched by all their peers serves no purpose. It also puts the examiners in a bad way, forcing them to wear egg on their face by transcribing individual results into this list. Remember, D.C. didn’t get the scores wrong, they just made a mistake turning those scores into an alphabetical list.
Which brings us to the only appropriate response to this: just ditch the list. More careful checks and redundant processes may stave off mistakes for a while — maybe even years — but it won’t avoid an eventual redux. Someday this will happen again and people will suffer public professional trauma… and for what?
Nuke the list from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.
Joe Patrice is a senior editor at Above the Law and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. Feel free to email any tips, questions, or comments. Follow him on Twitter if you’re interested in law, politics, and a healthy dose of college sports news.