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Lying to Get Extra Time on the Bar is a Bad Idea

By Robyn Hagan Cain | Last updated on

Bar exam applicants who have disabilities can request special accommodations during the exam. Depending on the nature of the disability, "accommodations may include such things as assistants (i.e., readers or personal healthcare assistants), wheelchair access, permission to dictate to a typist or tape recorder, customized timing, separate testing room, customized examination materials (i.e., Braille, large print, etc.), extended testing days and permission to bring and use specific items or medical aids.

It's not a perfect system. You could fake a disability for the extra time on the test. You may even get away with it.

But if you get caught, you'll lose your license.

Wednesday, the California Bar announced that it had recommended cancellation of a newly-admitted attorney's license because she received bar exam testing accommodations based on misrepresentations.

Leah Harmuth, a UC Hastings graduate, was given 50 percent more time and a semi-private room to take the California Bar Exam based on an alleged disability, according to the State Bar's announcement. In her application, Harmuth misrepresented the type of testing accommodations she received while a student at the University of Pennsylvania.

The New York Bar alerted the California Bar to the alleged sham in September 2011 after Harmuth tried to pull the same trick in the Empire State. The New York bar disqualified Harmuth from taking the New York State Bar Exam or applying for admission to the New York bar for two years.

In California, the commission of any act involving moral turpitude, dishonesty or corruption, whether the act is committed in the course of relations as an attorney or otherwise, constitutes a cause for disbarment or suspension. That means that Harmuth's play for extra time can cost her that hard-earned law license.

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