Law Schools

Law prof's quest for bar data to study racial preferences gets boost from California supremes

A law professor studying the impact of affirmative action has won a California Supreme Court victory in his quest to get the state bar to release records about bar applicants, including their exam scores, law school grade averages, and race or ethnicity.

The California Supreme Court ruled (PDF) Thursday that law professor Richard Sander of the University of California at Los Angeles should have access to the information—if the individuals’ privacy can be protected and “if no countervailing interest outweighs the public’s interest in disclosure.” A trial court will now consider those issues. The Associated Press, the Los Angeles Times and CBS Los Angeles have stories.

Sander told the Associated Press that the decision is “a big breakthrough.” Having access to the data, he said, “is just so enormously valuable.”

Sander studied affirmative action in law schools and concluded in 2004 that racial preferences allow minority students to attend schools for which they are not academically prepared, hurting their grades and their prospects of passing the bar exam. Critics said Sander was working with limited data—and he agreed, saying California was the best source for the information. He made a public records request with the State Bar of California in 2008.

Sander told the Los Angeles Times he hopes the data will shed light not only on racial preferences, but also on “how attending a particular law school affects [students’] chances of becoming a lawyer.”

Prior coverage: “Law Prof’s Amicus Brief in Potential Supreme Court Case Says Preferences Hurt Minorities” “Will Calif. Supreme Court Provide Bar Data for Controversial Study?” “Law Prof: CA Bar Swayed by Liberals”

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