Test-Takers Who Helped Ill Man Denied Extra Time on Bar Exam

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Two law students who stopped taking the State Bar exam this week in Pasadena to help another test-taker who was suffering an epileptic seizure were denied extra time to finish the test, which was completed by about 500 others who seemingly ignored the stricken man.

John Leslie, 28, of North Hollywood, said he was halfway through Tuesday's phase of the grueling, three-day exam at the Pasadena Convention Center when he put down his pencil and rushed to help the man, who was writhing on the ground and turning blue. Another student, Eunice Morgan, a registered nurse in her 40s, also responded.

While test administrators called paramedics, Leslie and Morgan administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation and first aid, trying to keep the 51-year-old victim's head back and jaw forward so he would not choke on his tongue. At one point, the man was unconscious and had stopped breathing, the two law students said.

Afterward, test supervisors refused to let either student make up about 40 minutes that they had spent during the three-hour test session helping the victim. The man was conscious by the time paramedics arrived and was taken to Huntington Memorial Hospital.

Victim Randall L. Carpenter, 51, said it was his 11th attempt to pass the bar exam. Carpenter said the bar should recognize the two good Samaritans -- both strangers to him -- rather than making them appeal their test scores.

"I appreciate the humanity," the Pasadena law clerk said. "The fact that they took the time, and they tried to help me -- that buys them a ticket to heaven."

Leslie, a former lifeguard, said the man showed up Wednesday for the final day of the exam.

Leslie said he almost certainly failed Tuesday's portion of the exam. After helping the victim, Leslie said he reopened his blue book, but by then he had lost a lot of time and could not concentrate.

"When you're taking the Bar, it's such an emotional situation anyway," he said.

Morgan said there was never a question that she would help.

"When I looked back and saw he was in trouble, it was just instinctive," the Culver City resident said. "There's no way you're going to sit back with someone in trouble. A life is more important than the Bar.

"A lot of people were scared to move," she said. "They were taking the exam."

Jerome Braun, the Bar's senior executive for admissions, said the test supervisor followed policy. A test supervisor cannot arbitrarily decide which test-takers get extra time and how much, he said.

Leslie and Morgan plan to appeal their scores, but they must wait until after results are posted May 28.

The victim of the seizure also can petition for a score adjustment, Braun said. "It sounds like we're coldhearted, but we're not," he said. "How do you draw the line?"

A 19-member Bar committee reviews appeals. Adjustments are based on several factors, including the test-taker's performance on other parts of the exam.

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