UPDATE POSTED MARCH 21, 2021
LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – The Kentucky Supreme Court has responded to a request from Kentucky Student Bar Association Presidents to get rid of a question regarding mental health on the bar exam.
In a letter, Kentucky’s high court says it appreciates the association’s concerns and is directing the Kentucky Office of Bar Admissions to review the current bar application and recommend changes.
The letter also says it’s committed to addressing the high rates of depression, anxiety, addiction and suicide within the profession.
ORIGINAL STORY POSTED JAN. 29, 2021
LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – The Student Bar association at the University of Kentucky is circulating a petition to get rid of a mental health question on the bar exam.
It says it could keep law students from getting the mental health help they need.
Question 31 asks about mental health in the same category as substance and alcohol abuse something UK Student Bar Association President Jonas Bastien says needs to be re-evaluated.
“It dissuades students from seeking the mental health treatment that they need because they’re afraid of any fall back that might occur,” Bastien said.
And the pandemic has added even more stress.
“It’s the most stressful thing that I think I’ve ever done,” Mitch Whitaker said.
Whitaker is also an officer with UK’s SBA.
The Kentucky Office of Bar Admissions released a statement saying in part, it recognizes the stigma with aspiring lawyers and mental health treatment and it encourages any applicant to seek it if needed. Adding, treatment itself is not a basis on which admission is denied.
Regardless, Mitch Whitaker hopes the State’s Supreme Court can reconsider the wording.
“This affects the entire legal system which in turn affects the entire population. So, we need the best representation we can get and the best lawyers in the field that we can get and it all starts here in law school,” Whitaker said.
In Virginia, a similar move from law students pushed its supreme court to remove a similar question. UK law students want to see Kentucky’s Supreme Court do the same. The UK SBA wrote to the justices and is circulating a petition on its Facebook for people to show their support.
“Other states are moving forward with removing these sorts of questions and I think it’s high time Kentucky does the same,” Whitaker said.
To read the full letter to the Ky. Supreme Court click here.
The full statement from Kentucky’s Office of Bar Admissions is below:
“The Board of Bar Examiners and Character and Fitness Committee appreciate the sentiments expressed in the letter sent by the University of Kentucky Student Bar Association. The Board and Committee are cognizant of the concerns regarding the stigma associated with seeking mental health treatment among current practicing attorneys and future applicants to the legal profession.
The Character and Fitness Committee is tasked with determining the fitness of an applicant to practice law in Kentucky. All information as to a specific applicant is confidential. The mere fact of treatment for mental health issues, or any other form of treatment, is not in itself a basis on which admission is denied. The Board of Bar Examiners and Character & Fitness Committee encourage any applicant who may benefit from assistance to seek it, and welcome further discussion on this important topic.
Kentucky Office of Bar Admissions”