The Bar Association of Erie County (“BAEC”) has passed a resolution in support of eliminating certain questions posed by the New York Board of Bar Examiners about an applicant’s criminal background when applying for admission to the New York State Bar. At its Board meeting on February 8, 2022, the Board voted unanimously for eliminating questions on the admission application, questions that the Board views as discriminatory and as an obstacle to attracting diverse candidates to law school and the profession.
Currently, the NYS Bar Admission Application, Question 26, seeks without qualification sweeping information about an applicant’s involvement in the criminal justice system, even as a juvenile and even if the applicant was never convicted. Studies, including a comprehensive report by the New York State Bar Association (“NYSBA”), show that these questions chill applications to law school, especially from people of color.
BAEC President Hugh Russ states that the proposed changes, if adopted, are “a vital step in increasing racial diversity in the profession.” “We can and must do a better job of making the profession open to all. Now is the time. It is a matter of fundamental justice, and it is the Bar Association’s responsibility to address these matters. The Minority Bar Association of WNY’s long history of advocating for justice is an important foundation upon which we can build. We are appreciative of the opportunity to partner with them.”
President Larry E. Waters Jr. of the Minority Bar Association of WNY states that the proposed changes “are a further step to increasing diversity in the legal profession. The Minority Bar Association has supported and will continue to support efforts that eliminate barriers, obstacles, and deterrents to minorities entering the legal profession. We are appreciative of the support from the BAEC in the continued efforts to increase diversity, equity, and equality in the legal field.”
According to President Russ, the “Resolution reflects a commitment to ensuring that the practice of law in Erie County is inclusive and to removing historical obstacles and bias affecting lawyers of color.” He credits the NYSBA for its comprehensive report. A copy of the Resolution is attached.
The BAEC will be collaborating with its partners at the NYSBA and Minority Bar Association of WNY to advance the recommended changes.
About the BAEC
The Bar Association of Erie County (“BAEC”), a not-for-profit professional association, was founded in 1887. The BAEC’s goal is to advance the administration of justice through programs and services for the legal profession and the public. The BAEC is a nonpartisan association made up of over three thousand lawyers and judiciary from varied practices and backgrounds, including lawyers in civil and criminal practice, corporate and trial lawyers, defense counsel, in house counsel, and those working in government, educational, and nonprofit settings.