Law Schools

Will Calif. Supreme Court Provide Bar Data for Controversial Study?


Seeking to pursue a controversial study about the effectiveness of law school affirmative action programs, researchers have sued the State Bar of California for access to 30 years of examination records.

They are now asking the state supreme court to compel the bar association to turn over the bar exam record information, contending that its demographic data should be made available because the bar association is a public agency funded with taxpayer dollars, reports the Los Angeles Times.

The bar association contends that the information is private, and was obtained under assurances that it would be kept private. One law school graduate of the University of California at Los Angeles pointed out at a public hearing that she was the only African-American woman in her class. Hence, she fears, researchers could easily reveal private information without identifying her by name, simply by providing statistics for her class.

One of the researchers seeking the data is Richard Sander, a law professor at UCLA who has earlier published controversial research on a related topic. It suggested that African-Americans are underrepresented among that law firm partner ranks because of being pushed by affirmative action into jobs for which they are underqualified, the newspaper writes.

Now he is seeking to pursue a similar study concerning affirmative action at law schools, focusing on a failure rate for black bar-exam takers that reportedly is much higher than for white test-takers, according to the Times. Critics say that passing the bar exam has little correlation to the actual ability of attorneys to practice law.

The California First Amendment Coalition has joined Sander in his lawsuit. “Politics should not block otherwise valid, even if controversial, academic research,” says Peter Scheer, the group’s director.

Read the full L.A. Times article here.

Earlier coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Law Prof: CA Bar Swayed by Liberals”

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