Letter from New York Deans to Government Leaders on Bar Exam


Dear Fordham Law Recent Graduates,

Many of you have reached out to me about the cancellation of the September bar exam and the hardship and anxiety it has caused. I am grateful to you for sharing your thoughts and concerns. Your communications have been helpful to me as I have discussed the issue with the deans of New York’s 15 law schools.

I wanted to share a letter with you that we sent today to the leaders of our state government.

I will keep you apprised of further developments on this issue. I fervently hope that either the Court of Appeals or the legislature adopts the course the deans have urged.


Matthew Diller
Dean and Paul Fuller Professor of Law

July 17, 2020
The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo Governor of New York State
The Capitol Albany, NY 12224
The Honorable Letitia James Attorney General of New York State The Capitol
Albany, NY 12224
The Honorable Andrea Stewart-Cousins
Majority Leader and Temporary President of the New York State Senate 188 State Street, LOB 907
Albany, NY 12247
The Honorable Carl E. Heastie
Speaker of the New York State Assembly 188 State Street, LOB Room 932
Albany, NY 12248
The Honorable Janet DiFiore
Chief Judge of the New York State Court of Appeals 20 Eagle Street
Albany, NY 12207
Dear Governor Cuomo, Attorney General James, Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins, Speaker Heastie, and Chief Judge DiFiore,

Yesterday, the Court of Appeals announced that it had cancelled the in-person September bar exam, leaving our graduates with grave doubt and anxiety as to the nature and timing of their opportunity for admission to the bar and ability to enter the profession.

We, the deans of New York’s 15 law schools, write to urge that New York adopt a diploma privilege in the swiftest way possible. We know the Court is considering this among other options, and we know that there is pending legislation to this effect in the Legislature. Immediate action is essential.
We have repeatedly advocated on behalf of our graduates before the Court of Appeals regarding the timing and format of the bar exam, and alternatives thereto, in light of a variety of public health and logistical concerns. While we support the adoption of an online examination as an option, the excessive delay in making a final determination on such an exam places an undue burden on our graduates who have been studying intensively for licensure for the past two months in the midst of extreme public health concerns and hardship.
The State of New York currently has no clear plan to facilitate the admission to the bar of thousands of our recent graduates. These graduates now are in a state of limbo, with a profound level of uncertainty and anxiety that surrounds their futures and economic stability as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. Indeed, as you can imagine, in order to study for the exam, many of them have quit jobs, taken leaves of absence, and borrowed money to pay for housing and food. Most of these graduates currently, or will imminently, face significant student loan repayment obligations, and need to be licensed to either start employment, keep it, or find it.
Thank you for your support.
Alicia Ouellette
President and Dean, Professor of Law Albany Law School
Michael T. Cahill
President, Joseph Crea Dean & Professor of Law Brooklyn Law School
Aviva Abramovsky
Dean and Professor of Law University at Buffalo School of Law
Melanie Leslie
Dean and Samuel Belkin Professor of Law Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law
Gillian Lester
Dean and the Lucy G. Moses Professor of Law Columbia Law School
Mary Lu Bilek
Dean and Professor of Law CUNY School of Law
Eduardo Peñalver
Allan R. Tessler Dean and Professor of Law Cornell Law School
Matthew Diller
Dean and Paul Fuller Professor of Law Fordham University School of Law
Judge A. Gail Prudenti
Dean and Executive Director of the Center for Children, Families and the Law Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University
Anthony W. Crowell
Dean and President, Professor of Law New York Law School
Trevor W. Morrison
Dean and Eric M. and Laurie B. Roth Professor of Law New York University School of Law
Horace  Anderson,  Jr. Dean and Professor of Law
Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University
Michael A. Simons
Dean and John V. Brennan Professor of Law & Ethics St. John’s University School of Law
Craig M. Boise
Dean and Professor of Law Syracuse University College of Law
Elena B. Langan
Dean and Professor of Law Touro Law Center
Cc: The Honorable Michael J. Garcia
Associate Judge, New York State Court of Appeals
The Honorable Howard Levine
Associate Judge (Retired), New York State Court of Appeals
Diane Bosse
Chair, New York State Board of Law Examiners
Scott M. Karson
President, New York State Bar Association
Sheila S. Boston
President, New York City Bar Association

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