U.S. Justice Department weighs in on disability case

Posted
Friday July 22, 2011

BURLINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. Justice Department has filed a brief in support of a blind Vermont Law School student suing for special accommodations that would allow her to take a legal ethics exam.

Deanna Jones, 44, of Middlesex, is suing the National Conference of Bar Examiners, saying it isn’t providing the accommodations she needs to take the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination which all lawyers must take before they practice in Vermont and most other states.

The testing group has proposed having someone read the questions to her and some other accommodations but Jones wants permission to use special computer software she has used to help her read in law school.

In a brief filed Thursday, the Justice Department said the Americans with Disabilities Act requires not just reasonable accommodations to Jones but appropriate modifications or auxiliary aids so that the test can measure her aptitude and achievement.

"The clear weight of authority and the correct interpretation of the statutory and regulatory framework governing entities offering licensing examinations requires NCBE to offer Deanna Jones testing accommodations that "best ensure" that the MPRE reflects her abilities and not her impairment," the brief said.

"The Court should reject arguments to the contrary," it said.

The Justice Department filed the brief because it "views this as an important issue before the court and wanted to weigh in on it," said U.S. Attorney Tristram Coffin.

On Friday, a U.S. District Court judge heard arguments in Jones’ bid for a preliminary injunction to allow her to use the software.


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