Lawyer Starts Petition To Force Texas To Admit Online Law School Graduates
Attorney Nelson A. Locke, founder of the Virtual Education Is Real Education initiative, has started a petition that would force the state of Texas to allow graduates from fully online law schools to be admitted to the Texas bar.
Locke founded his own successful practice in 2013 after passing two rigorous California Bar Exams. In addition, he was admitted to the federal bar in five different states. He earned both his bachelor’s degree and law degree at colleges that offer 100% online courses.
While Locke’s law alma mater – Concord Law School at Purdue University – has a reputation for excellence, the American Bar Association (ABA) has long held that law schools that offer virtual learning cannot be accredited.
29 states plus the District of Columbia allow graduates of non-ABA accredited schools to qualify for the bar exam. The state of Texas, however, prohibits graduates of any fully online law school from being admitted to the state bar.
In July of 2020, Locke sought admission from the Texas Board of Law Examiners (TBLE) to practice law in the state. He quickly ran into a series of obstacles, starting with Texas’s refusal to consider his original application. He then encountered a consistent lack of response from the TBLE and its nine members, violating due process.
Locke finally got their attention in January of 2021 when he filed a discrimination suit against the TBLE, alleging a number of constitutional violations. On March 25, 2021, the TBLE emailed him with an invitation to a hearing to discuss his request.
In that same email, however, he was informed that while he would be allowed to complete the application process and discuss the waiver he was qualified for, there was no possibility of admission. The outcome was preordained. In fact, the TBLE went so far as to turn off Locke’s microphone during his presentation.
“The hearing was a sham,” Locke said. “Regardless of my strong arguments about constitutional violations during the process, they had made up their collective minds beforehand that I wasn’t going to be admitted, and the evidence supports this.”
Locke is now taking another approach to the problem. He has filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern Division of Texas against the nine members of the TBLE. The suit alleges that the state violates the constitutional right to due process and equal protection.
“My legal education has been rigorous, and included passing the two most difficult bar exams in the nation,” Locke said. “I also met all the Texas requirements for waiver. Still, I was instantly denied admission with no due process or actual review of my experience as a practicing attorney from another state. The TBLE solely focused on my virtual learning – despite it having been proven adequate by passing the California Bar Exam, obtaining other state and federal licensing, and an impressive list of accomplishments as a practicing attorney and expert in my field.”
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