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Law board seeks to dismiss suit over student's test failure

By Steve Korris -Kanawha Bureau
West Virginia Record

CHARLESTON, WVA - While Shannon Kelly awaits the results of his West Virginia bar examination, the Board of Law Examiners seeks to dismiss a federal lawsuit claiming they didn't accommodate his learning disability.

In an Aug. 8 answer to the suit, John Hedges of Morgantown argued that the examiners didn't have to state their reasons for denying his accommodation request.

No formal appeals process exists for disability accommodations, Hedges wrote, and rules of admission to the West Virginia Bar do not require a hearing.

Kelly sought twice as much time as others planning to take the test in July, and he sued the law examiners in federal court at Charleston after they granted time and a half.

U.S. District Judge David Faber denied double time prior to the exam.

Kelly failed the test last year, after the examiners trimmed his request from double time to time and a half.

The examiners also sought to accommodate Kelly, last year and this year, by printing questions in 18-point type and giving him a room to himself.

Those accommodations don't satisfy the Americans With Disabilities Act, according to his attorneys, Edward McDevitt and Kristin Shaffer of Bowles Rice in Charleston.

"The board has made insubstantial efforts to elucidate the scope and meaning of the ADA only at the urging of the petitioner and this court," McDevitt wrote. "Indeed, petitioner is essentially paying for the education of the board as to the implications of the ADA."

According to McDevitt, Kelly has "severe deficits in processing speed, cognitive fluency and rapid naming."

"With each day that passes, petitioner loses professional opportunities which he can never regain," he wrote. "His ability to practice law is at stake, after he has invested enormous, time, money and energy to reach the threshold of the profession at the age of 32."

He identified Kelly as a resident of Lester in Raleigh County, though correspondence in the court file shows his address in Orlando, Fla.

Kelly graduated from Concord University in Athens, W.Va., and from Barry University School of Law.