New Jersey Modifies Mental Health Disclosure Requirement for Bar Applicants


The Supreme Court of New Jersey has announced changes to the state's mandatory "character and fitness" questionnaire, specifically pertaining to mental health and substance abuse disclosures for individuals applying to join the bar as attorneys. This adjustment will take effect on October 1.

Under the revised question, candidates are no longer obligated to divulge any conduct or behavior related to mental health diagnoses, addiction, or other conditions that have been effectively treated by a healthcare provider, medical professional, or through consistent participation in an established treatment program within the past five years.

However, candidates must still disclose if they presently experience a substance abuse or mental health issue that impacts their ability to practice law competently and ethically. A new, separate question prompts candidates to reveal if they have cited any condition or impairment as a defense in investigations, inquiries, or judicial proceedings.

New Jersey Chief Justice Stuart Rabner commented, "These revisions to the character and fitness questionnaire encourage bar candidates to take positive steps to treat their mental health and addiction issues. That approach will enable them to become better lawyers and serve the public well."

Recent changes in other states, including New York, Ohio, and Virginia, have seen the removal of mental health-related questions from their character and fitness evaluations. This shift came in response to advocacy from mental health proponents who argued that such disclosures deter law students from seeking assistance.

In March, the New Jersey State Bar Association and the state's two law schools jointly petitioned the high court to entirely eliminate the requirement for mental health and substance abuse disclosures. As of now, the bar association has not issued a response to these recent modifications.