By James Lanham
On February 22–23, 2022, applicants for the California State Bar will take the California Bar Examination in person. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the State Bar began administering exams remotely on October 5-6, 2020. [see 26:1 CRLR 123] The February 2022 exam will be the first held in-person in California in two years. On October 20, 2021, the Supreme Court of California ordered that the February 2022 exam be conducted in person as Covid-19 cases were dropping nationwide. In order to change the format of the exam to remote, both a public health order prohibiting in-person administration of the exam and a California Supreme Court order would be necessary. At this writing, neither the state nor any local governments have issued a public health order preventing in-person examination in February 2022.
As cases have risen again during the winter months with the spread of the Omicron variant, states have debated holding the exam remotely again. Many states, including California, incorporate the National Committee of Bar Examiners’ (“NCBE”) Multistate Bar Exam (“MBE”) into their states’ bar exams. However, on January 10, 2022, the NCBE informed jurisdictions that it would not provide them with remote versions of the MBE due to deadlines set by remote examination software ExamSoft. The NCBE also stated that makeup dates would be available in March 2022 if public health orders prevent in-person examination. As of today, Nevada is the only state that has elected to administer its February 2022 exam remotely. Because of the NCBE’s restriction on using a remote MBE, Nevada will not administer the MBE to applicants in February 2022.
While a remote exam would prevent the transmission of COVID-19 during testing, there were several problems with the remote examinations in July of 2021. [see 27:1 CRLR __] Applicants reported frozen screens, software crashes, and other issues causing lost time or content while taking the exam. Nevertheless, California will proceed with an in-person examination in February 2022 unless a public health order requires otherwise.