This article originally appeared in The Bar Examiner print edition, September 2017 (Vol. 86, No. 3), pp 2–3.

By Hon. Rebecca White BerchPortrait photo of Hon. Rebecca White BerchGreetings, everyone, and welcome to a new NCBE year. By the time you read this, great change will have occurred at NCBE. Our longtime and much beloved leader, Erica Moeser, will have retired after 23 years at the helm. This edition of the Bar Examiner contains essays from eight former chairs of the NCBE Board of Trustees who served during Erica’s presidency. These essays reflect on NCBE and acknowledge Erica’s contributions to the organization.

At the May 2017 Board of Trustees meeting, the Board selected a new leader well known to all of us: Judy Gundersen. The former Director of Test Operations is now NCBE’s new President and CEO. She took the reins on August 21, and her inaugural President’s Page appears in this edition of the Bar Examiner. Judy is well qualified, energetic, and full of ideas. We look forward to working with her—but she has big shoes to fill. Matt Samuelson, Chief Deputy Regulation Counsel in the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel for the Colorado Supreme Court, will take over for Judy as Director of Test Operations.

So we begin the year already having experienced great change, and we face many challenges. But we build on a strong foundation. NCBE’s staff is exceptional, with excellent leaders in each department and competent professionals throughout the ranks. Our new president has the support of a strong and well-tested team.

The Board of Trustees is similarly strong and experienced. I look forward to assistance and guidance from the entire Board, but especially from the Executive Committee, which consists of Chair-Elect Missy Gavagni of Florida, the Hon. Cindy Martin of Missouri as Secretary, and Immediate Past Chair Bobby Chong of Hawaii, who will continue to offer his wisdom for the coming year. The Board and I thank our departing past chair, Judge Tom Bice of Iowa, who among other things adeptly led the Board’s Search Committee through the process of selecting a new president. We thank Judge Bice for his service. We also say good-bye to Gordon MacDonald of New Hampshire who, on April 13, was sworn in as Attorney General of New Hampshire. And we extend a warm welcome to our newest Board members, Anthony Simon from Mississippi and Darin Scheer from Wyoming.

The Council of Bar Admission Administrators this year is ably led by Emily Eschweiler of Minnesota. We count on the administrators that form the CBAA to handle each jurisdiction’s day-to-day testing, admissions, and character and fitness operations, and to provide guidance and input to NCBE about the jurisdictions’ needs. And its members always come through.

We are coming off a very productive NCBE/CBAA Annual Meeting in Halifax, Nova Scotia, with 79 attendees from 35 jurisdictions. CBAA committee meetings and educational sessions tackled many topics important to the daily work of bar administrators. At a dinner marking the conclusion of the Annual Meeting, the Board extended thanks to Bobby Chong for his service as NCBE chair and to Mark Huntsberger of Florida, outgoing chair of the CBAA, for his participation and contributions at NCBE Board meetings this past year. In addition, we honored former Board chair Franklin Harrison of Florida with the annual award recognizing a former NCBE chair, and we recognized Dave Ewert of Iowa for his receipt of the Outstanding Bar Admission Administrator Award.

So what should we expect to see in the coming year? While we continue many of our programs and maintain our tradition of excellence in testing and service, we look forward to learning about our new president’s agenda. We also continue to implement the 2015–2020 strategic plan approved by the Board of Trustees, which sets forth detailed goals and recommendations not only for keeping NCBE on course, but also for moving the organization forward. We continue to examine whether to set up a new task force to look at the bar exam of the future.

The past few years have been difficult for bar examiners, with low examination scores causing soul-searching on the part of law schools and reexamination of every aspect of the bar examination on our part. Although, as Judy Gundersen reports in her President’s Page, MBE scores have risen in the past two July administrations, we can expect continued questions about how the bar exam is created and scored, and about subject-­matter and skills coverage. We anticipate that pressure will continue to build in this area, but we remain confident that the processes and protections NCBE has put in place ensure that the examination samples subject matter and tests examinees appropriately in as fair and objective a way as is possible. We will, of course, continue to study, review, and evaluate our processes and to research whether there are other or better tools that we might employ to improve on the current testing methods.

Finally, I cannot sign off without expressing our gratitude for Erica Moeser’s leadership of NCBE over the past nearly quarter century. Under her guidance NCBE has grown and flourished. We all owe her our appreciation for her diligence and foresight over the years in helping NCBE become the well-operating, service-oriented enterprise that it is today. Her 23 years of dedicated service deserve our thanks and our deep gratitude. We wish Erica the best in her retirement and look forward to carrying on her tradition of excellence.

Sincerely,

Signature of Hon. Rebecca White Berch

Hon. Rebecca White Berch

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