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Jan. 5, 2007
Justices ease rules for bar exam tries
But one former test-taker says waiver on limits isn't enough

Prospective lawyers will be able to try, try, try, try, try and then try again to pass the state bar exam under a procedure the Texas Supreme Court approved.

The high court's order would allow a waiver of rules limiting the number of times a would-be lawyer could take the bar exam if the applicant shows "good cause."

The order amending the previous five-time absolute limit was signed by the members of the court last month.

The change will apply to the July 2007 Texas bar examination and subsequent exams.

Law school graduate Clifton Eames, who has lobbied to have the rule eliminated after failing the test four times, said the change doesn't go far enough.

The Houston resident still wants to see the rule eliminated altogether. He also wants to see other procedures regarding the test changed.

"It was a fairness issue. We had blacks and Hispanics being affected by this rule," Eames said on Thursday.

"It's a small step. It's still no clarity because (of the term) 'good cause.' If some people apply and don't get the waiver, then why is that?"

An applicant must apply for a waiver. According to the waiver form posted on the Texas Board of Law Examiners' Web site, the burden of proof will be on the applicant.

The applicant must include a statement detailing why a waiver should be granted and include a copy of the bar-exam score report for each test taken.

Julia Vaughan, executive director of the Texas Board of Law Examiners, said the panel wanted to leave the wording open-ended without listing a number of exemptions. She said there have been a few people "limited out" in Texas who have passed the licensing exam in other states.

Vaughan said Eames spoke before the board in November in support of eliminating the rule.

"There are other kinds of life circumstances. It's open-ended purposely. We really intend for this to be fair for all people," Vaughan said. "I think the board appreciated hearing from him (Eames). He did not waste his time and effort."

However, the change has not persuaded Eames to take the exam again.

"I'm going to take it when I feel it's fair," he said. "As far as I'm concerned, it's still not fair."