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US Supreme Court to Welcome Deaf Attorneys to Bar in Unique Ceremony

  • Chris Hannas

FILE - A cherub holding an open book adorns a flagpole on the plaza of the Supreme Court in Washington, April 4, 2016.

FILE - A cherub holding an open book adorns a flagpole on the plaza of the Supreme Court in Washington, April 4, 2016.

A group of 13 deaf or hard-of-hearing attorneys will join the bar of the United States Supreme Court at a ceremony next week.

The Deaf and Hard of Hearing Bar Association (DHHBA) said that will be the largest such group to be admitted to the Supreme Court bar at one time.

The April 19 ceremony will also be unique in that the attorneys will be allowed to use their mobile phones to read real-time transcription of the proceedings. Mobile phones and other electronic devices are normally banned from the courtroom.

"Our admission sets a precedent that will hopefully encourage others with disabilities to pursue a legal career and view the legal profession as being open to diverse backgrounds," said Anat Maytal, DHHBA's president and one of the attorneys being sworn in.

Challenges

Maytal told the Associated Press she believes there are fewer than 300 practicing deaf or hard-of-hearing attorneys in the U.S. She said it is hard to get the necessary accommodations for attending law school, taking a bar exam or working in a courthouse.

The Supreme Court regularly admits groups of attorneys to its bar. The lawyers must fill out a two-page application, be a member of their state's supreme court bar in good standing for at least three years and be endorsed by two sponsors who are already members of the Supreme Court bar. There is also a $200 fee.

The court has estimated there are 230,000 members of its bar, and it adds about 4,000 to the list every year.

Most members will never actually argue before the court, which only hears about 80 cases each year.

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