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Bar applicant bounced from federal court

“What part of no don’t you understand,” runs the refrain of a country-western song.

That chorus may have echoed in Scott Street’s mind as he tried for the fourth time to explain to bar applicant Jonathan Bolls that he failed the Virginia bar examination in 2008.

Bolls was in federal court earlier this month with a legal complaint asking the Board of Bar Examiners to provide him with his answers to the July 2008 bar exam, which he failed.

When Bolls learned he did not pass, he notified the board he had encountered a “computer glitch” during the exam, and requested a copy of his answers to the essay exam.

After an exchange of correspondence, Street, secretary-treasurer of the board, sent this missive to Bolls:

“I have written to you three times before. I explained to you previously that after the initial grading, your essay answers were reevaluated by the Board. There is no doubt that you failed the bar exam. You failed not only the essay portion but you also failed the Multistate portion of the bar exam. The results are final. I do not know how to say it more clearly.”

In dismissing Bolls’ suit, U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson said Bolls’ grievance already had been reviewed by the Fairfax Circuit Court, the Supreme Court of Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court, the Eastern District of Virginia and the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Although Bolls attempted to restyle his complaint to challenge the board’s discretion to release bar exam answers as a due process violation, Hudson said federal courts have uniformly rejected claims based upon a state’s policy of denying access to bar exam results.

Hudson said applicants who fail the bar and believe it was due to a computer or software glitch have two options: petition the Supreme Court of Virginia, or simply take the test again.

The board does try to offer some personal feedback to test-takers who fail multiple times, according to Street.

By Deborah Elkins


  1. Why not give the guy a copy of his own answers?

  2. Why not give the guy a copy of his own answers?

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