Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Missouri Bar, July 1986

When I read the results in the Kansas City Star, on the first Sunday in October of 1986, I felt a profound sense of relief. I had passed the Missouri bar exam, administered six weeks earlier in Jeff City − as Missourians are wont to call their tiny, rather obscure state capital,

The drive from Kansas City on a 100-degree day in late July was stressful. I had picked up my little hand-me-down 1980 Olds Omega in the parking lot of Rockhurst College in KC, after flying down from Minneapolis-St. Paul. The BAR/BRI course hosted by Rockhurst had ended a week or so earlier, so I’d gone back to my parents’ home in Minnesota for the last week of study before the exam.

In such heat, I was concerned that the decidedly-not-young Olds would boil over, and indeed it was making problematic noises as I made my way down I-80 toward Jefferson City. Somehow it held together, and I breathed a sigh of relief as I pulled into the Ramada Inn where the exam was being held and checked in without incident.

The two or three days to follow were a blur of exam taking and coping. The two news stories catching my attention were Antonin Scalia’s nomination to the Supreme Court and the outcome of the United States Football League’s antitrust case against the NFL. Never before or since, even during the Iowa bar in February 2000, have I experienced such 24/7 immersion in the law.

Interesting as the USFL’s anguish was, the Scalia story really stood out. Only a little over a year later, Robert Bork let it all hang out in his confirmation hearings and − it became a verb − got borked, Scalia was able to play it coy as coy can be. Any question that might raise even the most reticent of ideological eyebrows was met with the same, on-message response: “I’m sorry senator, I can’t answer that because it implicates an issue that might come before me on the Court, if I am privileged to so serve.”

When I finished the exam, I drove the Olds back to KC and caught a flight to Chicago. From there, I got a shuttle to Valparaiso, Ind., where I had graduated from law school two months before. My parents were waiting at my apartment, after driving out from Minnesota. My mom saw my crestfallen face and feared the worst.

As it turned out, however, I had stayed strong throughout the exam. My multistate (nationally applicable multiple-choice) score was so high that, a year later, I was admitted in Minnesota on motion, without having to take the Minnesota exam. I was sworn in as a member of the Missouri bar in the fall of ’86 by the Honorable Charles Shangler, the judge I was clerking for at the Missouri Court of Appeals.

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