Attorney’s Admission to Bar Denied by Supreme Court of Texas


The Supreme Court of Texas denied a woman’s fight for a final time on Friday, December 9, 2022. The woman, Deborah Sonnenschein, representing herself, believes that she was wrongly denied admission to the Texas Bar for failing to obtain a degree from an accredited law school. Sonnenschein attended Northwestern California University School of Law. Her degree was earned through an online program, which is accredited in the state of California, but is not approved by the American Bar Association (ABA), which requires accreditation before bar admission. The American Bar Association gives accreditation to many schools, but only to thirteen online schools. The ABA’s website states that each states examiners will provide guidelines to follow when determining if an applicant has satisfied the education requirement. The Juris Doctorate (JD) degree that Sonnenschein earned at NCU has not been accredited by the ABA, however she is a member of both Massachusetts and California Bar Associations. In 2019, the Texas Board of Law Examiners denied Sonnenschein’s application for admission. This application included an application for admission without taking that state’s bar exam, and also a waiver for failing to attend an approved law school. The board denied the application requests and waiver, and informed Sonnenschein that she would not qualify to even sit for the bar exam based on her education. The denial stated that her degree was not earned from an approved law school, and the degree being earned through online teachings was also at issue. In response, she filed a petition, which included the following excerpt: “The [Texas Government Code]’s context and legislative history indicate that it was meant to modify the procedural due process board members were required to provide to applicants, thereby implicating constitutional due-process protections. As an applicant who requested a law-study waiver request, Ms. Sonnenschein was an intended beneficiary of the statute.”