This article originally appeared in The Bar Examiner print edition, Fall 2023 (Vol. 92, No. 4), pp. 42.

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Bar Examination

Accommodations; ADA

A divided Supreme Court of Maryland reversed the State Board of Law Examiners’ denial of an applicant’s requested testing accommodations on the bar examination, and adopted a two-step test in making the decision. The Court established that the applicant must be provided the requested accommodations.

In the spring of 2023, Antavis ­Chavis, a recent law school graduate, requested testing accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for the Maryland Bar Exam in the form of 50 percent additional time on the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE). Chavis requested the accommodation due to his having attention deficit hyperactivity ­disorder (ADHD). As part of the request, Chavis ­“provided an ‘ADHD Verification Form’ completed by a medical doctor who diagnosed him with ADHD and recommended that he be provided additional time to take law school exams. Mr. Chavis also provided documentation showing that both of the two law schools that he attended had provided him with 50% additional time to take exams” (1).

The State Board of Law Examiners (SBLE) denied Chavis’s request for accommodation, having had a licensed psychologist conduct a review. Chavis appealed the denial to the Accommodations Review Committee, which upheld the SBLE’s decision. As part of a hearing before the committee, the psychologist “testified that, for an individual to qualify for a test accommodation, there must be a diagnosis that ‘ideally’ is ‘not based on the self-­report of the person himself[,]’ and there must be ‘a demonstration of functional impairment’ that, in ‘the case of a bar exam, [] would restrict the access to the exam.’” The committee largely based its denial on the psychologist’s review and his “expert evidence” (8–9).

In a split decision, the Supreme Court of Maryland reversed the SBLE decision and ordered that ­Chavis must be provided the requested accommodations. In making this decision, the Court adopted a two-step test: (1) “whether the applicant meets the definition of the word ‘disability’ under the ADA”; and (2) “whether the test accommodation requested by the applicant would be ‘reasonable, consistent with the nature and purpose of the examination and necessitated by the applicant’s ­disability’” (28).

Regarding the first step, the Court found that Chavis met the definition of “disability” via the completed ADHD Verification Form (despite a formal diagnosis not being necessary for ADA claims, per Hrdlicka v. Gen. Motors, LLC), additional documentation, and his self-reporting.

Chavis’s past testing accommodations in law school testing environments are also relevant (“evidence of past test accommodations must be given considerable weight” (26)), given such exams’ circumstances and their similarity to the UBE’s. For the Court, there is a connection between past accommodations and those requested for the UBE. Although past testing accommodations are not “dispositive” (42) on their own, “Dr. Thiebaud [doctor who diagnosed Chavis]’s findings, diagnosis of ADHD, and recommendation were sufficient for two different law schools to provide Mr. Chavis with 50% additional time to take exams in addition to other types of accommodations. This was more than enough to demonstrate that providing Mr. Chavis 50% additional time to take the UBE would be reasonable and necessitated by his disability, and in no way inconsistent with the nature and purpose of the bar examination” (40).

See In the Matter of Antavis Chavis, Misc. No. 65, September Term, 2022

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