Charles Canady calls exam cancellation a ‘failure,’ promises courts will have backup plans in October.
A scene from a Florida bar exam. Image via Tampa Convention Center.

The original test date was in July and has again been delayed.

Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canady issued a public apology for canceling the Florida Bar exam scheduled for Tuesday. He also promised the Board of Bar Examiners will have backup plans in place to ensure assessments take place in October.

“In particular, we assure you that we will put in place alternative plans so that, one way or another, there will be an October administration of the bar exam in Florida,” Canady said in a video statement.

The Bar exam this month was canceled on Sunday evening, less than three days from when it was set to take place. The decision was made over reported glitches in the exam software being used.

That exam had been rescheduled from July because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Then Examiners initially planned to do remote administration on Aug. 18, and moved the day to Aug. 19 over concerns about conflicting with the Florida primary.

Canady apologized both for the delay and the failure to better communicate ahead of time that such a move might occur. Canady said the request to postpone the online exam came late in the day to the court on Aug. 16.

“Our court deeply regrets this additional delay in the administration of the bar exam,” he said. “From the outset of our consideration of how to move forward with the bar exam in the face of the pandemic, our goal has been to administer as expeditiously as possible a valid and secure examination in a way that protects the health of all examinees. We take seriously our obligation under the Florida Constitution to protect the public in the decisions we make regarding admission to the practice of law. But we also take seriously our obligation to applicants for admission to the bar.”

The delays have caused professional problems around the state for law students who prepped for the exam, many of them in two months, only to be told the test would move to an unspecified date.

“We understand that the bar exam is one of the most important events in the lives of the examinees – the culmination of years of hard work and for many a rite of passage to a lifetime career in the law. We recognize that for most aspiring lawyers preparation for the exam is a matter of intense focus for an extended period of time,” Canady said.

”We also understand that a three-month delay in licensure is a serious matter – a disruption in life that takes a financial toll and an emotional toll. And we know that for some applicants, such a delay will cause severe hardship. We are seeking to mitigate the impact of this delay through the supervised practice program that we are instituting, but we are keenly aware that this program is a stopgap measure that will provide limited relief to a limited number of applicants.

“We acknowledge and accept the criticism that has been directed at the court and the Board of Bar Examiners. Our inability to offer the bar examination in August was a failure. We apologize for that failure. I can’t guarantee you that the path forward will be flawless, but I can guarantee you that we have learned from this mistake and that it will not be repeated.”

“I want to tell you that we take to heart the concerns that have been expressed about the adequacy of communication concerning developments related to the bar exam,” he said. “Accurately communicating in an uncertain and changing environment presents special challenges. Notwithstanding those challenges, we are committed to improving our communication with those concerned about the administration of the bar exam. It is very reasonable that applicants want to know what is going on regarding planning for the October administration, and we will strive to provide timely and accurate information as it becomes available.”

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected]


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