In a narrowly split decision, the Oregon Supreme Court voted 4-3 today to waive the July bar exam for 2020 graduates of Oregon's three law schools.
The decision came in response to a request earlier this month by the deans of the University of Oregon, Lewis & Clark College and Willamette University law schools for "diploma privilege," which allows graduates to become members of the bar without passing the bar exam.
"There are very real concerns for our graduates in preparing for the exam," the deans wrote to Chief Justice Martha Walters on June 15. "All students in our three law schools had to finish their law school careers remotely, sometimes under dire home circumstances due to COVID-19. While finishing law school, some students home-schooled their children; others suffered job loss; and still others coped with family members who fell ill, became unemployed, or even died."
The deans' letter came after the Oregon State Board of Bar Examiners, which administers the exam, issued a letter May 15 announcing it was determined to move forward with the exam.
Today, according to a brief statement, the court took the following steps:
· Granting a one-time "diploma privilege" to persons who timely submitted complete applications for the July 2020 Oregon bar examination and who either (1) graduated in 2020 from one of the three Oregon law schools; or (2) graduated in 2020 from any other law school accredited by the American Bar Association that had a minimum of 86 percent of graduates pass a 2019 Bar exam on their first attempt. All character and fitness requirements continue to apply.
· Reducing Oregon's passing score for the July 2020 bar exam from 274 to 266.
· Authorizing an online only Oregon bar exam to be conducted in October. A person who passes the October exam would not qualify for UBE admission.
"UBE" stands for "uniform bar exam," a test Oregon began giving in 2017 so that applicants could qualify to join the bars in certain other states without having to take additional exams.
The decision will please graduates, many of whom pleaded their cases to Walters and the Bar Board of Examiners in writing.
Here is the Supreme Court's order.