Superior Court of the Virgin Islands
Rules Governing the
Superior Court of the Virgin Islands

Rule 304. Regular admission

(a) Compulsory Examination

An applicant for regular admission to the Virgin Islands Bar must comply with the requirements of this rule. No one may obtain regular admission to the Virgin Islands Bar unless and until the Virgin Islands Bar Examinations have been successfully undertaken as described in this rule.

(b) Committee of Bar Examiners

(1) Composition. The presiding judge shall appoint a special committee to be known as the Committee of Bar Examiners whose function shall be to assist the court in the administration of the Virgin Islands Bar Examination, which includes character investigations and other matters related to admission to the Virgin Islands Bar. The Bar Examinations shall be conducted semi-annually. The committee shall consist of not less than five (5) members of the Virgin Islands Bar in good standing whose appointments shall be for varied terms and who shall serve until their terms expire, until their successors are appointed, or until removed by the presiding judge for cause.

(2) Immunity from Suit. The duties of the Committee are inherently judicial functions which are being performed on behalf of the Court. The Court accordingly hereby adopts the American Bar Association's (ABA's) Model Immunity Rule entitled "Civil Immunity of Board of Law Examiners, its members, employees and agents, and entities providing information regarding an application to the board", as adopted February 1998, and which provides as follows:

(a) [The Committee of Bar Examiners], and its members, employees, and agents are immune from all civil liability for conduct and communications occurring in the performance of their official duties relating to the examination, character and fitness qualification, and licensing of persons seeking to be admitted to the practice of law.

(b) Records, statements of opinion and other information regarding an applicant for admission to the Bar communicated by an entity, including any person, firm or institution, without malice, to the [Committee of Bar Examiners], or its members, employees or agents are privileged, and civil suits predicated thereon may not be instituted.

(c) Application Procedure

(1) Application for regular admission to the Virgin Islands Bar shall be made in writing to the Territorial Court at least thirty (30) days prior to the date of the semi-annual Bar Examinations, and shall be accompanied by a fee of three hundred and fifty dollars ($350.00), which shall not be refunded if the application is withdrawn, if the applicant loses or fails to submit the character questionnaire, or if the Bar Examination is not taken as scheduled, except for good cause shown.

(2) Fifty dollars ($50.00) of said amount shall be retained by the clerk as a filing fee and the balance of three hundred dollars ($300.00) shall be administered by the Committee of Bar Examiners to defray the local costs of examinations, investigations and administration. Applicants shall submit two (2) checks or money orders -- one for fifty dollars ($50.00) payable to the clerk of the Territorial Court and the other for three hundred dollars ($300.00) payable to the Committee of Bar Examiners.

(3) In addition to the aforesaid local fees, each applicant must defray the cost of each non-local examination and investigations, as follows:

Multi-State Bar Examination (MBE) ................... $33.00

Multi-State Professional Responsibility Examination

(MPRE) ................... $35.00

National Conference of Bar Examiners Investigation

(NCBE) ................... $175.00

(Practicing Attorneys $200.00)

These fees may be paid by cashier's check, money order or certified check as indicated by each examining agency, and are subject to change.

(4) Persons seeking information concerning the Bar examination may, upon request, be furnished with a packet of relevant materials upon remittance of a fee of $25.00 payable to the Committee of Bar Examiners.

(5) The clerk shall open a miscellaneous civil file for each application, assign a case number, and refer the application to the Bar Admissions Coordinator of the Territorial Court who shall coordinate the processing of the application with the Committee of Bar Examiners.

(6) No application to the V.I. Bar may be filed by anyone who has been disbarred, suspended or sanctioned, without reinstatement or exoneration, or who is under pending disciplinary action by the Bar of any State, District or Territory of the United States or any foreign jurisdiction, or any Federal Court.

(d) Criteria for Application

Each applicant for regular admission must allege and prove to the satisfaction of the committee that the applicant is:

1. At least twenty-one years of age;

2. A citizen of the United States or a resident non-United States citizen who is a legal immigrant, i.e., an immigrant who has lawfully been admitted for permanent residence in the United States;

3. A person of good moral character who has not been disbarred, suspended or sanctioned, or who has been reinstated or exonerated, and who is not under pending disciplinary action, by any State, District, Territorial, Federal, or foreign jurisdiction;

4. If previously admitted to the bar of any other jurisdiction, a current member in good standing of that jurisdiction; and

5. A graduate of an accredited law school approved by the American Bar Association.

(e) Composition of Examination

Each applicant is required to pass the following examinations:

(1) Multi-State Bar Examination (MBE);

(2) Local Law Essay Examination (Essay);

(3) Multi-State Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE); and

(4) Character Examination and Personal Interview.

The MBE and Essay exams shall be held semi-annually in February and July on St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, and when warranted by the number of applicants, may be held simultaneously on St. Croix, Virgin Islands. The date of the MBE exam will coincide with the national date published by the National Conference of Bar Examiners, and the date of the Essay exam will be the day following the MBE exam. The MPRE exam shall be held on the dates established by the National Conference of Bar Examiners which are different from the MBE and Essay exam dates. The MPRE shall become effective in the Virgin Islands on and after November, 1994. The Committee shall also examine applicants as to their character and may conduct such character investigations and personal interviews as are required. In so doing, the applicants may be required to appear before it for questioning or furnish it with answers to such questions as are appropriate. The committee may employ the administrative staff necessary to satisfactorily perform its work, and coordinate the character examinations with the National Conference of Bar Examiners.

(f) Scoring of Examination

In order to pass the written bar examinations, each applicant must receive a minimum combined score of 70% or more on the MBE and Essay portions of the examination, and a minimum score of 75% on the MPRE. For purposes of the MBE, a scaled score of 133 is equivalent to 70%. An applicant who has passed only one of the two portions of the exam, and whose combined score in the MBE and Essay does not amount to 70%, may take the exam for the failed portion. However, an applicant who passes one portion may retake that portion simultaneously with the retaking of the failed portion in order to obtain the benefits, if any, of combining the MBE and Essay scores. An applicant's scores cannot be combined unless both the MBE and the Essay portions are taken during the same scheduled examination period.

MBE and MPRE scores obtained in another United States jurisdiction may be accepted by the committee, provided that minimum passing score required by the Virgin Islands Bar has been achieved and certified in writing by the other jurisdiction, and provided further that the scores certified are no more than five years old.

(g) Bar Examination Review Procedure

Any applicant who fails the Essay portion of the Bar Examination will be permitted, on written request made to the committee within twenty (20) days after date of mailing or issuing results, to review the examination in accordance with the following procedure:

(1) The review will be made under the supervision of a committee member (to be assigned by the chairman of the Committee of Bar Examiners) by appointment at a time mutually convenient to the applicant and such member.

(2) The applicant will be allowed to review the essay-type questions, his own answers to those questions, and the model answers prepared by the examiner. The applicant will not be permitted to see the answers of other applicants. The applicant's own answers will disclose his grade on each essay-type question.

(3) Since the regulations governing the MBE and MPRE Examinations require all questions and answers to be forwarded for grading to the Educational Testing Service immediately after the exams, no MBE or MPRE Examination questions or answers can be made available to the applicant. In lieu thereof, the applicant will be advised of his scores and other related information received by the Committee.

(4) Where the applicant sat for both the essay and the MBE sections, the applicant's average grade on the essay part of the examination and his score on the MBE part are combined into a single percentage score to determine his overall passing or failing grade, which will be disclosed to him.

(5) The applicant will be allowed adequate time to make such notes as he desires from the materials made available to him for review, but he will not be allowed to remove the questions, his own answers, or the model answers from the room or be given copies of them.

(6) The single member of the Committees of Bar Examiners supervising the review will not discuss the examination with the applicant. If the applicant has any questions, comments or objections about the examination as a result of his review, he shall submit them in writing within (10) days after review to the committee chairman, who will refer them to the appropriate examiner(s) for action. In so doing, the applicant shall not reveal his identity or score but shall refer only to the applicant's exam number, the grades being challenged and the reason therefor. An applicant who identifies himself or his score or the number of points needed to pass shall be disqualified from further review by the examiner. After a challenge has been analyzed, the examiner shall thereafter advise the committee chairman whether upgrading is warranted and, if warranted, the upgraded score. The committee chairman shall thereafter notify the candidate of the results of the review.

(7) Simple rounding-off of scores is permitted, but no multiple rounding-off is allowed.

(h) Re-taking Bar Examination

(1) Any applicant who fails to pass the bar examination may be permitted by the committee to retake the examination but if the applicant fails the exam three times, he shall not be eligible to take any further examinations without leave of the presiding judge of the Territorial Court upon a showing that he has completed a current, accredited bar review course of at least six (6) weeks' duration. The fee for retaking each portion of the bar examination shall be two hundred dollars ($200.00), payable to the Committee of Bar Examiners.

(2) An applicant who is not admitted to practice within five (5) years after passing any or all parts of the bar examination shall be required to retake the entire examination and must re-apply for admission and for re-examination, including submitting an updated character report, and paying the appropriate fees. The result of any bar examination that is more than five (5) years old shall not be acceptable for current admission.

(i) Admission Procedure

When an applicant has satisfactorily passed the bar examination, and has met all other requirements of this rule, the Committee of Bar Examiners shall so certify to the Territorial Court by written motion for the applicant's admission. The motion shall be reviewed by the Territorial Court and if satisfactory, the applicant shall be admitted to the Virgin Islands Bar in open court upon taking the oath (or affirmation) required of applicants for admission to the Bar of the Supreme Court of the United States. The clerk of the court shall thereafter issue to the applicant a Certificate of Admission as a member of the Virgin Islands Bar and shall enter the applicant's name on the Roll of Attorneys, provided that no such attorney may commence the practice of law unless and until all appropriate membership dues and licensing fees have been paid.--Adopted Oct. 14, 1994, eff. Nov. 16, 1994; amended Apr. 15, 1996, eff. Apr. 15, 1996; Oct. 9, 1996; May 12, 1998, eff Oct. 20, 1998.

Case Notes

Due process

Good standing

Due process

Former V.I. Terr. Ct. R. 304(d)(4) did not violate due process or equal protection because an applicant's good standing with other states was very relevant to the applicant's ability to practice law properly in the Virgin Islands, and the requirement did have a rational connection with the applicant's fitness or capacity to practice law. In re Adornato, 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 1604, 45 V.I. 448, -- F. Supp. 2d -- (D.C.V.I. Feb. 2, 2004).

Good standing

Trial court clearly did not abuse its discretion in denying the applicant's admission to the bar under former V.I. Terr. Ct. R. 304(d)(4) where (1) the trial court properly relied on the applicant's acknowledgment that the applicant was not in good standing with the Arizona bar, which was a bar to which the applicant was previously admitted, (2) the trial court did not apply Rule 304(d)(4) in an arbitrary and capricious manner, and (3) an applicant's good standing with other states was very relevant to the applicant's ability to practice law properly in the Virgin Islands. In re Adornato, 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 1604, 45 V.I. 448, -- F. Supp. 2d -- (D.C.V.I. Feb. 2, 2004).

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