CHARLESTON – West Virginia's Board of Law Examiners printed its examination in big type for Shannon Kelly last year, gave him a room to himself and allowed him an extra day to complete the test, and he blames them for his failure.
Kelly sued the examiners July 21 in U. S. District Court at Charleston, demanding four days to finish an exam that most law school graduates finish in two days.
"He has severe deficits in processing speed, cognitive fluency and rapid naming," wrote his attorney, Edward McDevitt of Bowles Rice McDavid Graff and Love in Charleston. "Petitioner will be forced to take an examination in a manner which denies him an equal opportunity to pass the examination as individuals without disabilities.
"With each day that passes, petitioner loses professional opportunities which he can never regain. If petitioner is not given the reasonable and necessary accommodations he has requested, then he will once again be unable to start work as an attorney.
"His ability to practice law is at stake, after he has invested enormous, time, money and energy to reach the threshold of the profession at the age of 32."
Kelly received a score of 253 last year, 17 points fewer than he needed to pass the exam.
He had asked for four days to take the exam, but the board had granted three.
McDevitt's complaint identifies Kelly as a resident of Lester in Raleigh County, though correspondence in the file shows his address in Orlando, Fla.
Kelly graduated from Concord University in Athens, W.Va., in 1997. He attended Thomas M. Cooley Law School in 2001 and transferred to Barry University School of Law in 2003.
At first he received time and a half for examinations, according to McDevitt, but on a psychologist's recommendation the school granted double time.
"His historical performance at law school clearly demonstrates that, when given double time as ordered by professionals following thorough evaluations of Shannon, petitioner performs quite capably," McDevitt wrote, noting that policies and actions of the law examiners don't meet requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
"The board has made insubstantial efforts to elucidate the scope and meaning of the ADA only at the urging of the petitioner and this court," he wrote. "Indeed, petitioner is essentially paying for the education of the board as to the implications of the ADA."
Kelly sued the board and board members Lawrence Shultz of Martinsburg, Ancil Ramey of Charleston, Sue Ann Howard of Wheeling, Ward Stone Jr. of Morgantown, Bradley Pyles of Logan, Sarah Hall of Welch and John Cyrus of Huntington.