The problem questions and rules

What question 24 says

Question 24 asks if you have experienced, been diagnosed with, or treated for any condition (including "a pscyhotic, mental, or nervous disorder or condition") in the past five years that would make it hard to be a good lawyer. If you answer yes, the next part of the question asks whether your treatment reduces or addresses "the limitations." If you answer "yes" to either of these questions, you must fill out Form 8 that provides details about your mental health disability and who treats you. The person who treats you may also be asked to provide more private information before you can even take the bar exam. Since the bar exam is only offered twice a year, any delay can be a significant hardship on the applicant. 

What question 25 says

Question 25 asks if your "conduct or behavior" in the past two years would question your "fitness" to be a good lawyer. It goes on to define "fitness" to practice law to include simply not having "a current mental impairment" that would impact your ability to practice law.  If you answer "yes," then you must give details about the conduct or behavior and who treats you.

What Admission to Practice Rules 22 and 24.2 say

Questions 24 and 25 are based on Admission to Practice Rules (APR) 22 and 24.2. APR 22(a) defines the word "fitness" to include "the absence of any current mental impairment." APR 24.2(a)(10) and (d) includes current "mental impairment" as a factor WSBA will consider when deciding if someone has the "character and fitness" to be a good lawyer. Importantly, APR 24(e) says WSBA can't consider someone's physical or learning disability. Yet, all disabilities are protected under state and federal law.   

Disability Rights Washington and many other individuals and organizations across Washington and the country think it is wrong to question a lawyer's "fitness" simply because she or he has a mental health disability. Having the insight to seek treatment when you think you need it should not be punished.  Seeking treatment has nothing to do with the ability to be a good lawyer.

Imagine a person has done all the hard work to make it through college and then law school and then the bar exam. Imagine too that they have no problematic past conduct or behavior. What good reason does WSBA have to question an applicant's "fitness" or ability to be a good lawyer simply because they have a mental health disability?  It is completely acceptable for WSBA to be concerned about prior conduct that indicates possible fitness issues.  But, simply belonging to an otherwise protected class should not raise suspicion about an applicant’s fitness to be a good lawyer.

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 by going back to the Questions of Discrimination home page.