California Bar Exam to Be Held Remotely in July

Despite growing optimism about the end of the coronavirus pandemic, the California Supreme Court decided Friday that July’s bar exam will be held remotely, the third state bar exam to be held in such a fashion. 

California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye addresses lawmakers at her annual State of the Judiciary on March 10, 2020. (Penne Soltysik, Judicial Council of California)

(CN) — The California Supreme Court said Friday the state bar exam must once again be given remotely given the ongoing pandemic preventing the traditional format. 

“The circumstances surrounding the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic in California continues to severely limit the state bar’s ability to the State Bar Exam in the traditional mass, in-person format,” said Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye in an administrative order issued Friday. “The court hereby approves modifications to the standard schedule of the general bar exam.”

The test will be issued remotely this summer in a two-day format that begins on Tuesday, July 28 and runs through Wednesday, July 29. 

Accommodations will be made for people who cannot take the exam remotely, the order said. 

California will follow the lead of other jurisdictions — including Washington D.C., Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Kentucky — to hold remote tests for the bar in July. Pennsylvania is slated to hold a three-day test beginning on the same day as California. 

It will be the third time California holds a remote bar exam since the pandemic began in earnest in the United States last year. The initial decision to hold the exam remotely was opposed by many law school graduates and deans, but the controversy has lessened as accommodations have proved somewhat successful. 

However, law students have continued to bristle over the state bar’s use of facial recognition technology to ensure the identity of test takers. 

Critics say the technology is biased against people of color and those with disabilities and is an intrusive incursion into the privacy of test-takers. 

Remote test takers, which make up the majority of applicants, will have to sit for hours in front of their computers as webcams capture their every move during each section.

Those who hold the tests in California say the technology is necessary to reduce the possibility of fraud that comes with remote test taking and is a tool that allows recent law school graduates the opportunity to take a test in a manner conducive to public health. 

The state previously considered holding an open book format, after law school deans complained that remote proctoring was unfair and hurt individuals who could not afford to find a quiet place with reliable internet. 

But the state held remote proctoring could occur. 

The state considered suspending the test altogether amid allegations of potential cheating and fears that remote test taking could present an unfair advantage but ultimately elected to hold them remotely. 

Many recent law school graduates said continuing with the test was necessary for students who have outstanding job offers and for others who fear that by failing the test, they will be putting off their next opportunity to pass the test. 

The court has striven to make library and school facilities available to test takers who may not have internet access at home, or who can’t find consecutive hours of quiet in the homes sufficient for taking the test. 

Some states have refused to hold tests remotely, continuing to hold in-person exams despite fears over coronavirus spread. 

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