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Fifteen Kentucky Bar Examinees Notified Of Failure After Originally Passing, Due To Scoring Error


A Kentucky Bar exam scoring error has left 18 prospective attorneys confused about the results.

The coronavirus pandemic forced The Kentucky Office of Bar Admissions to offer a remote version of the Bar exam October 5-6. When the results were released Monday, November 30, the office told 15 would-be lawyers they passed the exam when in fact, they failed, and three test-takers passed despite initially receiving a failing grade.

The office issued a statement Friday, December 4 notifying the public of the issue. The error was caused by an applicant identifier being double-entered into a database spreadsheet. This caused the scores of some examinees to be misaligned, incorrectly assigning them to other test-takers.

KYOBA Executive Director Valleta Brown apologized on behalf of her office to those impacted by the error. She said she understands the gravity of the situation, and she worked quickly to correct the problem after she was made aware.

“I want to apologize to every applicant affected by the incorrect Kentucky Bar Exam results that were issued by my office earlier this week. I know that no apology can undo the anguish and disappointment that these bar examinees and their families have endured. We sincerely regret this mistake, which was the result of a data entry error,” Brown said. “The mistake was not discovered prior to results posting on Monday. Once we realized there was an issue, our priority was correcting the results and making any necessary adjustments. All affected applicants were personally notified yesterday, December 3, 2020, of their adjusted score and exam result.”

Christian County Bar Association President Michael Cotthoff said the experience of passing the Bar is one of the most memorable experiences of an attorney’s life, and he said his heart breaks for the applicants whose legal aspirations will be delayed.

“You just really feel for those folks who have been impacted by this. I cannot imagine what they’re going through because when you pass the Bar, it’s the kind of thing when you get the news you basically just shout as loud as you can,” Cotthoff said.

Applicants receiving false passing grades took to social media to share their story, and express their frustration with the state’s bar admissions office. One prospective attorney said they posted news of their supposed passage on Facebook, received a cake from a friend and spoke to practicing attorneys about job opportunities before the notification of their failure came from state officials.

“As you can imagine I have been sick over this & completely embarrassed,” the examinee wrote. “How am I supposed to explain to everyone that I really didn’t pass the Bar after all after everyone was so happy for me? This will give my entire legal career a black eye.”

Timothy Poole, another self-identified false-pass examinee, said he is disappointed in the “fatal error” made by an organization that “demands such precision of its members.”

“I have had setbacks in my life, but this is a different kind of emotion. I’m not sure what/where to go with this next. I’m going to need a few days,” Poole posted on Facebook.

The 18 errors are out of some 323 tests the Bar administered in October. The 15 people who received false passing grades will receive an application fee waiver for the exam in February.

Dalton York is a Morning Edition host and reporter for WKYU in Bowling Green. He is a graduate of Murray State University, where he majored in History with a minor in Nonprofit Leadership Studies. While attending Murray State, he worked as a student reporter at WKMS. A native of Marshall County, he is a proud product of his tight-knit community.
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