Whitfield v. Illinois Bd. of Law Examiners, No. 73-2085

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore PELL and STEVENS; PER CURIAM
Citation504 F.2d 474
PartiesLeRoy WHITFIELD, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. ILLINOIS BOARD OF LAW EXAMINERS et al., Defendants, Len Young Smith, Defendant-Appellee.
Docket NumberNo. 73-2085
Decision Date18 October 1974

Page 474

504 F.2d 474
LeRoy WHITFIELD, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
ILLINOIS BOARD OF LAW EXAMINERS et al., Defendants, Len
Young Smith, Defendant-Appellee.
No. 73-2085.
United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit.
Argued May 24, 1974.
Decided Oct. 18, 1974.

Page 475

LeRoy Whitfield, pro se.

William J. Scott, Atty. Gen., and Herbert L. Caplan, Asst. Atty. Gen., Chicago, Ill., for defendant-appellee.

Before PELL and STEVENS, Circuit Judges, and LARAMORE, * Senior judge.

Page 476

PER CURIAM.

Plaintiff, LeRoy Whitfield, is a law school graduate who, after failing the Illinois Bar Examination five times, brought a civil rights action 1 against the Board of Law Examiners and its individual members. 2 He alleged that: 1) the bar examination is unconstitutional because it has no rational connection with an applicant's fitness or capacity to practice law; 2) he passed the examination and should be so certified; and 3) procedural due process requires that he be permitted to see his exam papers and to compare them with model answers or answers of successful applicants. Plaintiff also alleged that the defendants had discriminated against him because of his race; this claim, however, has been abandoned on appeal. The district court dismissed plaintiff's complaint for failure to state a cause of action. We affirm.

I.

Plaintiff alleged that, in addition to his fine academic and military record, he had extensive legal experience. This included employment at various legal aid clinics, where he litigated cases (see Ill. S.Ct. Rule 711), interviewed clients and prepared legal documents, and as 'Legal Advisor, special policeman and Project Director' of the Gary, Indiana, Police Department, where he drafted search warrants and directed searches. Plaintiff argued that an applicant with his background clearly has the capacity and fitness to practice law; and, if the Illinois Bar Examination had a 'rational connection' to such capacity and fitness, he would have passed it. He therefore concluded that, under Schware v. Board of Bar Examiners, 353 U.S. 232, 3 77 S.Ct. 752, 1 L.Ed.2d 796, the examination is unconstitutional. 4

We may assume arguendo that plaintiff's background does establish his ability to practice law. The fact that the bar examination has prevented one even exceptionally qualified individual from practicing is not, however, a sufficient reason to declare it violative of the Fourteenth Amendment. It is well settled that the question of whether a classification passes constitutional muster cannot be answered simply by assessing its chance effect upon a particular individual. See, e.g., Colgate v. Harvey, 296 U.S. 404, 436, 56 S.Ct. 252, 80 L.Ed. 299. As the Supreme Court has concluded:

'The fact that the Rules (concerning admission to the bar) may result in 'incidental individual inequality' (does not) make them offensive to the Fourteenth Amendment.'

Martin v. Walton, 368 U.S. 25, 26, 82 S.Ct. 1, 2, 7 L.Ed.2d 5. Since plaintiff's attack on the Illinois Bar Examination is based solely upon such a chance effect, it is plainly insubstantial. 5

Page 477

II.

Plaintiff further alleged that, in light of his background, it was 'impossible' for him to have failed a bar examination five times; thus, he must have passed and should be so certified. It was uncontroverted that the Board actually determined that plaintiff failed each of his five examinations. His contention, however, was that the Board made 'serious mistakes' in grading.

Admission to practice in a state and before its courts is primarily a matter of state concern. Schware, supra, 353 U.S. at 248, 77 S.Ct. 752 (Frankfurter, J., concurring). And the determination of which individuals have the requisite knowledge and skill to practice may properly be committed to a body such as the Illinois Board of Law Examiners. 6 Douglas v. Noble, 261 U.S. 165, 43 S.Ct. 303, 67 L.Ed. 590. A federal court is not justified in interfering with this determination unless there is proof that it was predicated upon a constitutionally impermissible reason. See Schward, supra, 353 U.S. at 238-240; id. at 248-249, 77 S.Ct. 752 (Frankfurter, J., concurring); cf. Theard v. United States, 354 U.S. 278, 281, 77 S.Ct. 1274, 1 L.Ed.2d 1342. Since nothing in plaintiff's complaint indicates that he was denied admission for such a reason, the district court correctly rejected plaintiff's request to overrule the judgment of the Board of Examiners.

Plaintiff, of course, did allege that defendants acted arbitrarily in grading his examination. There may very well be situations in which a capricious denial by state officials may give rise to a federal remedy. See Schware, supra, 353 U.S. at 239; id. at 249, 77 S.Ct. 752 (Frankfurter, J., concurring). But, as Justice Brandeis observed for a unanimous Court in Douglas v. Noble, supra, 'it is not to be presumed that powers conferred upon the administrative boards will be exercised arbitrarily . . ..' 261 U.S. at 170, 43 S.Ct. at 305. In this case plaintiff has merely alleged, in essence, that an essay-type examination requires subjective evaluation and that the standards of grading are not susceptible to precise definition. We agree with the Eighth and Ninth Circuits that such an allegation is not sufficient to state a claim for federal relief. Feldman, supra note 5; Chaney, supra note 5. 7

III.

Finally, plaintiff alleged 8 that procedural due process requires that he be permitted to see his examination papers and to compare them with model answers or answers of successful applicants. 9 We may assume that the

Page 478

due process clause requires the state to employ fair procedures in processing applications for admission to the bar and, therefore, that an applicant who has failed the bar examination is entitled to some procedural protections. Nevertheless, we do not believe that, in the context of this case, the procedures requested by plaintiff are required by the Constitution. 10

Plaintiff argues that these procedures were absolutely necessary to...

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60 practice notes
  • Practice and procedure: Patent and trademark cases rules of practice; representation of others before Patent and Trademark Office,
    • United States
    • Federal Register December 12, 2003
    • December 12, 2003
    ...622 F.2d 895, 897 (5th Cir. 1980); Sutton v. Lionel, 585 F.2d 400, 403 (9th Cir. 1978); Whitfield v. Illinois Board of Bar Examiners, 504 F.2d 474, 478 (7th Cir. 1974) (Constitution does not require an unsuccessful applicant be permitted to see his examination papers and to compare them wit......
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    • Federal Register December 12, 2003
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    ...622 F.2d 895, 897 (5th Cir. 1980); Sutton v. Lionel, 585 F.2d 400, 403 (9th Cir. 1978); Whitfield v. Illinois Board of Bar Examiners, 504 F.2d 474, 478 (7th Cir. 1974) (Constitution does not require an unsuccessful applicant be permitted to see his examination papers and to compare them wit......
  • Smith v. No. 2 Galesburg Crown Finance Corp., Nos. 78-2145
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    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • January 15, 1980
    ...to consider the pendent state law claims. Gibbs, supra, 383 U.S. at 726, 86 S.Ct. 1130; Whitefield v. Illinois Board of Law Examiners, 504 F.2d 474 (7th Cir. 1974); Nemkov v. O'Hara Chicago Corp., 592 F.2d 351 (7th Cir. 1979). On the other hand, if the state law and federal law claims are t......
  • Tyler v. Vickery, No. 74-3413
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • August 20, 1975
    ...Circuit has described as "an intolerable burden upon the bar examiners," Whitfield v. Illinois Board of Bar Examiners, 7 Cir. 1974, 504 F.2d 474, 478, especially when one considers that bar examiners are not full-time administrators but practicing attorneys. While such administrative concer......
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58 cases
  • Smith v. No. 2 Galesburg Crown Finance Corp., Nos. 78-2145
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • January 15, 1980
    ...to consider the pendent state law claims. Gibbs, supra, 383 U.S. at 726, 86 S.Ct. 1130; Whitefield v. Illinois Board of Law Examiners, 504 F.2d 474 (7th Cir. 1974); Nemkov v. O'Hara Chicago Corp., 592 F.2d 351 (7th Cir. 1979). On the other hand, if the state law and federal law claims are t......
  • Tyler v. Vickery, No. 74-3413
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • August 20, 1975
    ...Circuit has described as "an intolerable burden upon the bar examiners," Whitfield v. Illinois Board of Bar Examiners, 7 Cir. 1974, 504 F.2d 474, 478, especially when one considers that bar examiners are not full-time administrators but practicing attorneys. While such administrative concer......
  • Nat'Lass'N v. Berch, No. CV–12–1724–PHX–BSB.
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    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. District of Arizona
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    ...an applicant who has failed the bar examination is entitled to some procedural protections.” See Whitfield v. Ill. Bd. of Law Exam'rs, 504 F.2d 474, 477–78 (7th Cir.1974). However, there are no genuine issues of disputed fact regarding Girvin's claim and it fails as a matter of law. Contrar......
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    ...determining the qualifications an individual needs to practice law in that state. See also Whitfield v. Illinois Board of Law Examiners, 504 F.2d 474, 477 (7th Cir.1974) ("Admission to practice in a state and before its courts is primarily a matter of state concern. And the determination of......
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