Which states allow bar exam appeals?
It is not clear the number of states that truly allow bar exam appeals. Many state websites are unclear or not updated. Further, some states have changed their bar exam appeals policy after adopting the UBE or changing their bar exam. However, based on the state bar examiner’s websites, we are able to see that the following states allow bar exam appeals. (Note: This is not legal advice. Please look up your jurisdiction’s rules in-depth if you are considering a bar exam appeal. Further, if your state is not listed below but they offer a post-results appeals process of some kind, please let us know in the comments below!)
Which States Allow Bar Exam Appeals?
The following states allow bar exam appeals based on an allegation of the essays being unfairly graded:
- Indiana Pursuant to Indiana Supreme Court Admission and Discipline Rule 14: All applicants who have achieved a combined scaled score of 255 to 263 shall be eligible to appeal. The eligible examinees must make a written request to appeal on forms provided by the Board within fourteen (14) days of the date of mailing by the Board of the eligible examinee’s results. No response other than the written request to appeal is permitted. In the appeals process, all of an eligible examinee’s responses shall be subject to review by the Appeals Reviewers. Multistate Bar Examination scores will also be available to the Appeals Reviewers.
- Mississippi: Mississippi not only allows appeals but also appears to allow appealing the appeal! Their state website says: A failing applicant may petition for a review of his examination, excluding the MBE. Such petition must be filed not later than forty-five days after the date on which the Board has mailed the examination results to the applicant. A Petition for Review shall be verified under oath by the applicant shall designate the specific questions claimed to have been substantially misgraded. Requests for review shall be limited to particular questions on the MSE examinations and on the MEE and MPT on which the applicant received a raw score of less than 75.0% of the maximum raw score points assigned to that question. The applicant shall attach to his Petition for Review a separate Memorandum setting forth, for each examination designated in that petition, the grounds for his request for review. The Memorandum shall particularize how the grade awarded is unjustified by the merits of the answers. The Petition of Review, will be received by a committee of not less than three members of the Board, who reviews all papers on which the applicant alleges error in grading. A failing applicant who has filed a Petition for Review, shall have the right to appeal from the order of the Board denying his Petition to the Chancery Court of Hinds County within 30 days of entry of such order of denial. The Board must within 30 days after the appeal is filed in Hinds County Chancery Court, or within such further time as the court may grant, file with the court and serve upon the applicant an answer. The Board shall therewith forward to the Court applicant’s Petition together with copies of examination questions (excluding the MBE), model answers, or other analyses used in grading the examination, and the original of applicant’s answer. To read more, click here: //courts.ms.gov/rules/msrulesofcourt/rules_admission_msbar.pdf
- Guam: An applicant who fails the Guam Bar Examination may review the essay portion of the exam and/or file an appeal of such scores if eligible. The applicant can select a maximum of three essays for regrade.
The following states allow bar exam appeals based on an allegation of some kind of extraordinary circumstance:
- Connecticut: Unless the applicant clearly demonstrates that a clerical error has been made or that the Committee’s grading procedures have been violated, there is no review of the applicant’s answers or scores once the results of the bar examination are released.
- Iowa: A petition to the Supreme Court may be filed in extraordinary circumstances. See Rule 31.11.
- Utah: The rules say that, “the Board or its designees shall only review the request of failing Applicants who claim that failure was because of a substantial irregularity in the administration of the examination that resulted in manifest unfairness or because of mathematical errors in the scoring of the Applicant’s examination. A substantial irregularity in the administration of the examination will not be a matter that will result in questions or answers being reread, reevaluated or regraded. The Board and its designees shall not reread, reevaluate or regrade Bar Examination answers.” Read more here.
- Note: There may be more states that allow appeals for “extraordinary circumstances.” It is very hard to find this information on state websites and many times, those who fail have to call or email the board to find this out. In reality, it is difficult to define what an “extraordinary circumstance” is, an alleging a misgrading usually does not rise to the level of what the board considers to be “extraordinary.” If your state falls into this category of allowing appeals for extraordinary circumstances, please let us know in the comments below.
To sum up, only 3 jurisdictions allow appeals on the allegation of unfair essay grading. At least three states (but likely more) allow appeals based on an allegation of some “substantial irregularity” or a “clear clerical error” or “extraordinary circumstance” (however defined…). The vast majority of states have no appeals process that we are aware of or that can easily be discovered. (If you want to see what your specific state does, see this post.) We will be writing a post soon about whether all states should implement some kind of appeals process.
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