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Friday, at the last of three public hearings on a controversial proposal to raise the passing standard for attorney admission, the New York State Board of Law Examiners in Albany was presented with new opposition from four legal groups. The Hispanic National Bar Association, the Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York, and the New York-based Puerto Rican and Dominican Bar Associations have adopted resolutions against the law board’s proposal. These four groups underscore earlier negative reaction from all 15 deans of New York law schools, the New York State Bar Association and the Association of the Bar of the City of New York. Nelson A. Castillo, president of the New York region of the Hispanic Bar, was especially vocal in rejecting the Albany-based law board’s suggestion that the bar examination passing score be raised from 660 to 675 (out of a possible 1,000 points) — mainly to insure against “incompetence in the profession,” according to a law board letter addressed to the New York State Bar Association. “I believe our community will be hit hard by this,” said Castillo, a solo practitioner in Roslyn Heights. His organization’s resolution notes a “substantial amount of study time and financial resources” needed for high-priced study courses in preparation for the current bar exam. In the event that a candidate initially fails, Castillo — like all others who have opposed the law board’s proposal — said further time and expense involved in subsequent attempts disproportionately affects minorities and the working poor. “They’re playing with people’s lives,” Castillo said of the law board. Joan E. McNichol, president of the Women’s Bar, rejected the law board’s primary notion behind raising the score. “We don’t know whether there’s any relationship between competency and raising the rate,” said McNichol, of the Smithtown firm Coffman & McNichol. “That this would unfairly affect minorities and people who care for children seems rather obvious.” The official statement of McNichol’s group further complained that the current exam “excludes from its covered topics many areas of law commonly practiced (e.g. labor and employment) and often fails to ask questions on the most popular areas of practice.”

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