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CAMPBELL v. GREISBERGER

July 11, 1994

FESTUS CAMPBELL, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN GREISBERGER, As Chairperson of the Committee on Character and Fitness NEW YORK STATE SUPREME COURT, Appellate Division Fourth Department, PATRICIA O'TOOLE VAZZANA, As a Member of the Committee on Character and Fitness, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MICHAEL A. TELESCA

 INTRODUCTION

 Plaintiff, Festus Campbell (Campbell), presented the Court with an Order to Show Cause on May 26, 1994, seeking (1) to preliminarily enjoin defendant New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Fourth Department, from further use of Question 18(c) on the application for admission to the bar and (2) to prohibit defendants John Greisberger and Patricia O'Toole Vazzana from requiring his appearance at a hearing to inquire into his character and fitness before certifying him for admission to the Bar. Plaintiff essentially contends that the defendants have violated Title II of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. ยงยง 12131 et seq (the "ADA") and that he should be admitted to the bar without further inquiry into his background. A hearing on this matter was held on Tuesday, June 21, 1994.

 FACTS

 A. Background.

 Plaintiff graduated from the State University of New York at Buffalo Law School in 1988. While studying for his law degree, he spent the summer of 1986 interning at the Monroe County District Attorney's Office. The following summer he served as an intern in the United States Attorney's Office and continued that internship on a part-time basis during his third year of law school. After graduating, in October 1988, Campbell began working for the Monroe County Legal Assistance Corporation where he was permitted to practice law as a law graduate. *fn1" Campbell worked for the Monroe County Legal Assistance Corporation until May, 1989, when he was terminated because he had failed the New York State Bar examination for the second time. In July, 1993, Mr. Campbell took and passed both the New York and Pennsylvania Bar examinations. He is admitted to practice in the State of Pennsylvania.

 B. Plaintiff's Application for Admission to the New York State Bar.

 Following notifications that he had passed the New York Bar examination, Campbell then completed the required application for admission to the New York State Bar. Of particular relevance to this matter are Mr. Campbell's answers to Questions 17 (relating to prior arrests), 18(c) (relating to treatment for mental illness) and 19 (relating to unsatisfied judgments, obligations and debts including defaults on student loans). In his narrative response to Question 17 dated December 6, 1993, Campbell indicated that he was arrested in 1990 and charged with assault in the third degree by a City of Rochester police officer who witnessed him slap his wife. *fn2" Campbell wrote that at the time of his arrest he was suffering from schizophrenia bipolar disorder and he was intoxicated. In his affidavit submitted in connection with this action, Campbell noted that shortly thereafter he was committed to the psychiatric wing at Strong Memorial Hospital, where he remained from March 21, 1990 through April 5, 1990. In his narrative answer to Question 17 Mr. Campbell further wrote, "I am almost 100% normal now and have no problem with either alcohol or the schizophrenia."

 In his narrative response to Question 19 (also dated December 6, 1993), Campbell indicated that he was forced to default on his Perkins student loan because he became ill with schizophrenia bipolar disorder in October, 1989. A judgment in the amount of approximately $ 13,000 was taken against him in March, 1993 based upon his student loan default. However, Campbell indicated in his December 6, 1993 statement that he planned to commence an action to reopen the default judgment because it resulted from his mental illness. He also noted that his illness prevented him from seeking employment from October, 1989 to August, 1993 and that he has been receiving welfare benefits since March, 1990.

 Also relevant is Question 18(c) of the application for admission to the bar which Campbell contends violates the Americans With Disabilities Act. Question 18(c) on Campbell's application reads as follows:

 
State whether you have since attaining the age of 18, been adjudged an incompetent, or had proceedings brought to have you adjudged an incompetent, or been committed to or been a patient in any institution for the care of persons suffering from mental or nervous disorders or drug addiction, drug abuse or alcoholism.

 Campbell answered "yes" to this question. It must be noted, however, that this question no longer appears in the standard application for admission to the bar of the State of New York. Currently, applications for admission to the bar include a document entitled, "Attachment A" which reads:

 
You are not required to respond to Question 18(c) on the bar application. Please respond to the following two questions in place of Question 18(c):
 
1. Do you have any physical, mental or emotional condition that could adversely effect your capability to practice law? .
 
2. Are you currently using any illegal drugs? .
 
If your answer is "yes" to either question, state the ...

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