A New York State
Bar Association (NYSBA) proposal that would remove mental health-related questions
from the state bar application has been approved by the New York State Unified
Janet DiFiore made the announcement today during her State
of the Judiciary address. New York becomes just the 11th state
to protect the well-being of law school students by removing questions about
mental health treatment from the state bar application.
marks a historic step forward in addressing the ongoing mental health crisis in
the legal profession,” said NYSBA President Henry M. Greenberg. “Future
generations of New York lawyers no longer need to live in fear that bravely and
smartly seeking treatment for mental health issues could one day derail their
“I applaud Chief Judge Janet DiFiore and her Committee on Admission to
the Bar for their rapid response to this critically important issue,” continued
Greenberg. “I’d also like to thank NYSBA’s Working Group on Attorney Mental
Health, as they worked with extraordinary speed and skill and their report was
a blueprint for change.”
has been a NYSBA priority since Greenberg announced the Working Group on
Attorney Mental Health last June. NYSBA’s House of Delegates approved the
working group’s report in November.
The chief judge credited NYSBA for raising the issue
and stated in her address that “the amended application will no longer ask
intrusive questions about a candidate’s mental health conditions or treatment
2019, the Conference of Chief Justices passed a resolution urging its members
and state and territorial bar admission authorities to eliminate from bar
admission applications any questions that ask about “mental health history,
diagnosis, or treatment” and to instead use questions that only focus on an
reviewed questions on the New York bar application’s character and fitness
questionnaire that address an applicant’s mental health issues to determine if
they comport with the nationally endorsed recommendations found in the
Conference of Chief Justices’ resolution. NYSBA’s report is entitled The
Impact, Legality, Use and Utility of Mental Disability Questions on the New
York State Bar Application.
group concluded that:
- Law students today experience more stress and
mental health issues than ever before due to student debt and an uncertain job
market, in addition to the demands of law school.
- The presence of mental health inquiries on the
application may lead to many students failing to seek help for these problems.
- The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits the
screening of candidates based on mental disability.
- All questions related to mental disability,
including Question 34, the mental health-related question, are unnecessary and
should be eliminated from the bar application.
days after NYSBA approved the working group’s report, State Senate Judiciary
Committee Chairman Brad Hoylman introduced legislation that would have
prohibited the state bar application from asking prospective attorneys about
their mental health.
local bar associations and statewide mental health organizations submitted letters of
support for NYSBA’s
proposal. Additionally, deans from 14 of New York's 15 law schools submitted a letter to Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence K. Marks urging the removal of
question 34 from the state bar's application.
a change.org petition created by second-year Columbia Law School student
Samantha Braver began circulating on social media and it has now been signed by
more than 1,300 people.
Click here for more information, including the specific wording of both the new
and old Question 34.
About the New York State Bar Association
The New York State Bar
Association is the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. Since
1876, NYSBA has helped shape the development of law, educated and informed the
legal profession and the public, and championed the rights of New Yorkers
through advocacy and guidance in our communities.
Contact: Susan DeSantis