Despite virus, Board of Bar Examiners ready to release February bar exam results
New lawyers may be sworn in to the Bar remotely
With essay graders doing their normal electronic reviews and Florida Board of Bar Examiners employees practicing social distancing while grading, the results of the February Florida bar exam will be released as expected on April 13.
FBBE Executive Director Michele Gavagni is also reminding new Bar members that under Supreme Court administrative orders dealing with the Covid-19 crisis, they can take their attorney oaths remotely using two-way video conferencing. More than 1,500 applicants took the February exam.
The FBBE has extended by two weeks, until May 15, the deadline for filing to take the July bar exam, although the status of that exam is uncertain.
“We have actually had our office closed since March 19, but we have brought in staff for essential functions and for grading in a very limited capacity. We kept them all apart, but we could get the grading done,” Gavagni said.
With the volunteers who grade essay portions of the exam, she said, “The fortunate thing for us is those graders are all utilizing electronic material already, so they were already set up to do this electronically.”
For those who pass the exam, Gavagni said Chief Justice Charles Canady is allowing oaths to be administered remotely with audio-visual equipment. The requirement is that “the person administering the oath can positively identify the person taking the oath,” Gavagni said. “That has been extended through the end of May.”
In addition, she said “we have set up an email address that is specific for those electronic oaths of admission to be submitted to the FBBE so we can process them and submit them to the court and The Florida Bar.”
That email address is [email protected].
The July Exam
With the February exam finished, the FBBE is gearing up for the July exam, although there are many uncertainties.
“At this point, the July bar exam is still scheduled to take place July 28-29. We are actually in between the time we would be finished the grading of the February exam and starting the process for the July exam,” Gavagni said. “We have extended the timely filing deadline for applicants trying to take the July exam. It’s typically May 1 and we’ve extended that to May 15.”
For those planning to take the next exam, as well as law students looking to submit their applications, the FBBE has expanded the FAQ section of its website with a special COVID-19 section. Go to www.floridabarexam.org/web/website.nsf/faq.xsp and then scroll down to reach the COVID-19 section.
On the July exam, the FAQ advises the FBBE’s primary concern is for the safety of the applications and the test administrators.
“The Board understands the stress caused by the uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 crisis. Further, the Board understands that the impact the COVID-19 crisis may have on the July bar exam is a source of additional stress,” according to the FAQ. “The Board is working hard on this matter and will update our website as new information becomes available.”
Included in the FAQ, Gavagni said, are two critical questions for those hoping to take the July exam, but are having problems because of social distancing getting their fingerprints taken or getting required documents notarized.
For fingerprints, the FBBE is advising applicants to submit a letter, along with a copy of their government ID, explaining they are unable to submit fingerprints. “Additional instructions will be provided when your application is acknowledged about further submission of these prints for processing,” according to the FAQ.
With notarizations, the FAQ advises applicants may sign the required document and add this statement to the form: “I submit this document signed, but not notarized, as a result of the current status of the COVID-19 public health emergency. Under penalties of perjury, I declare that I have read the foregoing [document], that the facts stated in it are true, and that the signature on this [document] is my signature.”
Gavagni said the FBBE has canceled its March and April hearings, and its offices are closed. The agency does not have equipment so all its employees can work from home, although audio-visual equipment is being set up to help process hearings and other work.
“As many staff as possible are working from home,” she said, adding that processing at least started on all applications that were submitted by March 19, when the offices shut down.
“We’re limited in the processing that can be done until the office can be reopened,” Gavagni said.
Applicants who have portal accounts with the FBBE are encouraged to use those to submit paperwork, application amendments, and the like. Others can mail paperwork to the FBBE offices (the address in on the website) where it will be collected.
And, Gavagni said, there is an email address where applicants can contact the FBBE: [email protected].