Law clerk is vindicated Bar exam mix-up gets corrected

November 21, 1992|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,Staff Writer

Debbie Krohn was devastated. After four years of law school at the University of Baltimore and a grueling law review course, she flunked her bar exam.

"I was really, really numb," said Ms. Krohn. "I was acutely unhappy."

But her scores, which arrived two weeks ago, looked fishy. She had scored zero on two essays while doing well on the other four. Ms. Krohn mustered the courage to call the state law examiners' office Tuesday to question the results.

Thursday, the news came back. There had been a mistake. She had actually passed.

The good news flew through the Towson courthouse, where Ms. Krohn is a law clerk for Baltimore County Circuit Judge Dana Levitz. One judge, when informed by a clerk, recessed his courtroom to give Ms. Krohn a bear hug.

"I had to make a million phone calls," she said yesterday. "I had given all my friends the bad news. It made a lot of people happy."

It's the first time in about 10 years that a test result has been reversed, according to Bedford T. Bentley Jr., secretary of the State Board of Law Examiners, which administers the exam.

"We certainly regret that this happened," Mr. Bentley said.

Graders read the six essays on the bar exam and send the grades to the law examiners' office in Annapolis, where they are entered into a computer.

In Ms. Krohn's case, an office worker accurately entered the results of the two essays in question, Mr. Bentley said. But someone entering another result deleted those two scores by mistake -- something officials thought was impossible in the office's computers.

"We have safeguards that we thought were adequate to prevent this type of occurrence," Mr. Bentley said. "We're obviously going to make some changes to see that that doesn't happen again."

When he found the mistake this week, Mr. Bentley had his staff drop everything to go through the results of all 1,283 people who took the bar exam last July, the largest test pool ever. They found a mistake in another test, but it wasn't serious enough to reverse the result.

Ms. Krohn, 39, is changing careers after 17 years as a nurse. During that time, she saw many personal tragedies. Failing the bar, she had told herself, wouldn't be the end of the world. But that was a theoretical response.

Yesterday, heading off to celebrate over lunch at a Greek restaurant, She said she isn't mad about the foul-up.

"In a way," she said, "it's better than being notified that you passed with everybody else. Then, people would have said, 'I knew you could do it.' This way, it made everybody's day."

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