Character and fitness

A person's "fitness" to be a good lawyer should not be defined by their disability.

Why is WSBA asking about disability?

The Washington State Bar Association (WSBA) asks questions to figure out if people who are applying to get a license to be a lawyer will be good and professional at the job. This is called "character and fitness" to be a lawyer.

In the WSBA application form, there are two of these "character and fitness" questions (24 and 25) that ask people about their mental health disability. People also are asked to imagine whether their mental health disability could affect their ability to be a good lawyer. Then applicants have to share private health information about their mental health disability and treatment.

WSBA says they will not discriminate

In the preamble to these questions, WSBA says they will not refuse to give a person a license to be a lawyer just because they were diagnosed or treated for a mental health disability.  WSBA also says that they won't seek information about "situational" counseling.

However, it is confusing to compare this preamble with the quetions themselves or how WSBA defines fitness.  By asking questions about treatment or diagnosis, WSBA is suggesting that simply having a mental health disability is reason to question a person’s character and fitness to be a good lawyer. Many people with and without mental health disabilities think this is discriminatory. 

What do you think?  Read the questions for yourself and make up your own mind.

Disability discrimination is not allowed by lawwoman holding sign saying bar discrimination

You can read about how the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibit treating someone differently based on their disability.

How you can stop the questions about mental health disabilities

If you think questioning an attorney's "fitness" to be a good lawyer because they have a mental health disability is wrong, you can help stop this practice on the Questions of Discrimination home page.