Challenge to Questions on Colorado Bar Application

Privacy & Technology | Racial Justice
Case No. 99-Z-967, United States District Court, District of Colorado; 00-1302, Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals
ACLU Case No. 1998-04


In this case, the ACLU contends that the Colorado Board of Law Examiners violates the Americans for Disabilities Act (ADA) and the constitutional right of privacy by requiring applicants to the Colorado bar to answer broadly worded questions about their past history of treatment for mental or emotional problems or substance abuse. We argue that the questions force bar applicants to disclose intimate, personal information, including potentially stigmatizing medical history that has no reasonable relationship to their current ability to function as attorneys. The questions violate the ADA because they impose greater burdens on individuals with past history of disability and are not necessary to the Board’s proper function of determining current fitness to practice law. The litigation began in state court in 1998 and then moved to federal court. On July 7, 2000, the federal district court dismissed the complaint on grounds of standing, ripeness, and abstention. A year later, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed. Roe #2 v. Ogden, 253 F.3d 122 (10th Cir. 2001). After the case returned to the district court, the ACLU added new individual plaintiffs and filed a Third Amended Complaint. The Board agreed to modify the challenged questions in 2002, and the parties agreed to settle the case.


David D. Powell , Jr.
Mark Silverstein , ACLU of Colorado Legal Director
Stephen Masciocchi

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