ETHICS AND PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY
Carr v. Alaska Bar Association
In Carr v. Alaska Bar Association (475 P.3d 269 (Alaska 2020)), the supreme court held that health concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic did not warrant allowing bar applicants to practice law without taking and passing the bar examination. (Id. at 269.). Seven applicants for the Alaska bar examination, which had been rescheduled from July to September 2020 on account of the global pandemic, applied to be admitted to practice law without taking and passing the exam. (Id.). The court denied the applicants’ requests. (Id.). The applicants argued (1) that sitting for the exam would expose them to undue health risks and (2) that granting them diploma privilege would sufficiently ensure their competency to practice law. (Id. at 270.). The court justified its denials on the core function of attorney licensure: protecting the integrity of the profession and the public from attorneys who are unqualified to assume a position of trust. (Id.). The court emphasized that the bar association had already instituted several safety precautions to protect bar applicants’ health and had allowed recent graduates to practice without passing the bar for one year under the supervision of a licensed attorney. (Id. at 269–70.). Prioritizing the public’s trust in the legal profession, the supreme court held that the COVID-19 pandemic’s health risks did not warrant bar applicants’ circumvention of the bar examination considering the precautions the state bar had established. (Id. at 270.).