News Stream

California latest state to end questions about attorneys’ mental health

A requirement that prospective lawyers indicate their mental health and sign over related medical records was ended in a bill (SB 544) passed unanimously by the state legislature July 30.

The measure, sponsored by Disability Rights California, was introduced by Sen. Thomas Umberg (D), who stated its purpose is “to reduce the stigma of mental health issues and to help mitigate any chilling effect that prevents law students from getting treatment for mental health issues, including sexual assault and post-traumatic stress disorder.

“There are candidates who do not seek honest and warranted professional help, out of fear they have to divulge those records,” Umberg said.

The law will stop the State Bar of California, which regulates lawyers, from asking for access to those records in most cases, Umberg said.

Neither the bar nor the examining committee can seek, consider, or review an applicant’s medical records relating to mental health when deciding whether an applicant is of good moral character under the new law, which takes effect January 1, 2020.

Similar prohibitions on seeking attorneys’ mental health records have previously been enacted in Virginia, Washington, and Louisiana.