ROBERT J. ANTION, Petitioner
BOARD OF LAW EXAMINERS, Respondent
matter is before the Court on exceptions filed by petitioner,
Robert J. Antion, to the Board of Law Examiners'
(hereinafter "the Board" or "the
Board's") October 4, 2016, decision to deny his
application to take the West Virginia bar examination because
petitioner failed to meet the educational requirements
specifically set forth in Rules 2.0 and 3.0 of the West
Virginia Rules for Admission to the Practice of Law
(hereinafter also referred to as "the Rules").
Robert J. Antion is representing himself. The Board is
represented by John M. Hedges, Esq., and filed a response in
support of the Board's decision.
Court has carefully reviewed and considered the pleadings,
together with the appendix record before the
Court. This case does not involve a substantial
question of law, and the Court does not disagree with the
decision of the Board as to the question of law. Therefore a
memorandum decision is appropriate under Rule 21 of the Rules
of Appellate Procedure. We agree with the finding of the
Board that petitioner is not eligible for admission to the
practice of law by examination and his application to take
the West Virginia bar examination is denied.
and Procedural Background
is a graduate of Concord Law School of Kaplan University,
which is not accredited by the American Bar Association and
is comprised entirely of an online curriculum. In 2015,
petitioner took the California bar examination but did not
achieve a passing score. Petitioner applied for admission to
practice law through examination in West Virginia on January
28, 2016. His application was returned, without review at
that time because applications are not accepted before March
1 for the July bar examination. Petitioner later submitted
his application timely.
review of petitioner's application and accompanying
records, by letter dated March 2, 2016, the Board denied his
application based upon his failure to meet the educational
requirements of Rules 2.0 and 3.0 of the Rules. Rule 3.0(b)
concerns the policy on equivalency and does not permit
graduates of law schools providing more than 50% of classes
as Internet-based classes to take the West Virginia Bar
Examination. See supra note 2. Specifically, the
Board found that as a graduate of a law school providing more
than 50% of classes as Internet-based classes, he is not
eligible to take the West Virginia Bar Examination.
the denial, petitioner timely requested an administrative
hearing pursuant to Rule 6.0. An administrative hearing was
held on May 25, 2016. Petitioner testified regarding his
education and experience. He attended classes remotely
through a curriculum comprised entirely online.
hearing examiner issued his findings and conclusions in a
report dated September 27, 2016. The hearing examiner
concluded that the Board's decision that petitioner does
not meet the educational requirements of the West Virginia
Rules for Admission to the Practice of Law must be affirmed
and recommended that petitioner's application be denied.
October 4, 2016, the Board reviewed the hearing
examiner's report, together with the transcript of the
hearing and the documentation that petitioner submitted in
support of his application. The Board voted to deny
petitioner's application based on his failure to meet the
educational requirements in Rules 2.0 and 3.0. In accord with
Rule 3.0, the Board does not have discretion to waive or
modify this requirement, regardless of an applicant's
Court is vested with the authority under article VIII,
section one of the West Virginia Constitution "to
define, regulate and control the practice of law in West
Virginia." Syl. Pt. 1, Lane v. W.Va. State Bd. of
Law Examiners, 170 W.Va. 583, 295 S.E.2d 670 (1982).
Pursuant to this authority, this Court has promulgated the
West Virginia Rules for Admission to the Practice of Law.
to Rule 6(e) of the Rules for Admission, the petitioner filed
exceptions with this Court to the Board's decision. We
consider this matter under the following standard:
This Court reviews de novo the adjudicatory record
made before the West Virginia Board of Law Examiners with
regard to questions of law, questions of application of the
law to the facts, and questions of whether an applicant
should or should not be admitted to the practice of law.
Although this Court gives respectful consideration to the
Board of Law Examiners' recommendations, it ultimately
exercises its own independent judgment. On the other hand,
this Court gives substantial deference to the Board of Law