Supreme Court cancels in-person bar exams in 2020 as precaution during pandemic, announces remote bar exam Oct. 5-6

Contact: Katie Shepherd, Chief of Staff and Counsel, Office of Chief Justice

FRANKFORT, Ky., July 9, 2020 – The Supreme Court of Kentucky has entered amended order 2020-50 canceling the July 28-29 and Sept. 30-Oct. 1 bar examinations due to ongoing concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic. To protect the health and safety of bar applicants, employees and volunteers, the Kentucky Office of Bar Admissions will administer a remote bar examination offered by the National Conference of Bar Examiners on Oct. 5-6.

All applicants currently registered for either in-person exam will automatically be registered for the remote exam. The Kentucky Office of Bar Examiners will notify applicants of the security, technology and procedural requirements for administration of the remote bar examination.

“I want to express my gratitude to Justice Laurance B. VanMeter, the staff of the Kentucky Office of Bar Admissions, the members of the Board of Bar Examiners, and the deans of Kentucky’s three law schools for their tremendous efforts to develop a safe and responsible plan for administration of the bar examination,” Chief Justice of Kentucky John D. Minton Jr. said. “Despite all precautions, a risk always remains and the recent surge in COVID-19 cases required the Supreme Court to take action to minimize the danger of exposure to applicants.”  

Justice VanMeter is the Supreme Court’s liaison to the Kentucky Office of Bar Examiners. “While we were relatively optimistic about holding an in-person exam in July, we were less confident about providing an in-person exam in September,” he said. “Our concern is that a significant number of applicants might be denied the opportunity to test this year or have to take the exam in a different format. Both of those outcomes are unacceptable.”

The Supreme Court also entered amended order 2020-51 revising its temporary rule regarding Supervised Practice of Law Pending Admission. Under the revised order, individuals who applied for the July or September 2020 bar examination and who are now registered for the October remote examination may apply for temporary admission to the Kentucky Bar Association. The temporary admission would be subject to certain conditions, including supervision by a licensed attorney.

Office of Bar Admissions
Under the Kentucky Constitution, the Supreme Court of Kentucky has authority to govern admission to the bar. The Office of Bar Admissions was created by the Supreme Court of Kentucky to assist in the evaluation of applicants for admission to the practice of law. The office is made up of the Kentucky Board of Bar Examiners and the Character and Fitness Committee.
Supreme Court of Kentucky
The Supreme Court is the state court of last resort and the final interpreter of Kentucky law. Seven justices sit on the Supreme Court and all seven justices rule on appeals that come before the court. The justices are elected from seven appellate districts and serve eight-year terms. A chief justice, chosen for a four-year term by fellow justices, is the administrative head of the state’s court system and is responsible for its operation. The Supreme Court may order a ruling or opinion to be published, which means that the ruling becomes the case law governing all similar cases in the future in Kentucky.