Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Bar Opposes Disclosure Of Application Information

The California State Bar has taken a position in opposition to the release of confidential information concerning applicants for bar admission, according to a report in The Bar was responded to a request for information from UCLA Law Professor Richard Sander. The matter is before the California Supreme Court on a writ filed by Professor Sander. Forbes summarizes the arguments of Professor Sander and the Bar:

Sander theorizes that placing unqualified minority students in elite law schools results in lower bar pass rates than if they attended schools where their admissions credentials match those of their classmates. Calling the outcome the "mismatch effect," he suggests that preferential admissions policies may actually harm, rather than help, students of color.

The Committee of Bar Examiners and Board of Governors rejected Sander's request for applicants' bar exam results, gender, race and law school academic credentials after reviewing it in detail and considering the comments of numerous constituents, many of whom had provided information with the understanding it was confidential.

Given the detailed and comprehensive nature of information required of applicants for purposes of evaluating character and fitness, I agree with the bar that the expectation of confidentiality obligates the court to reject the writ.

UPDATE: here is a link to an article on the dispute that appears in the August 2008 online edition of the California Bar Journal. If anyone has the pleadings in electronic form, it would  be very helpful to see the precise contentions of the parties. Mike Frisch)

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Is it your understanding that the study is seeking access to the C&F forms? I may be wrong, but I don't think that's the case. If I am wrong, I would appreciate being corrected on that point. In fact, it was my understanding -- perhaps mistaken -- that the social scientists wouldn't even get the demographic information. They would simply get the coefficients back.

Posted by: John Steele | Aug 20, 2008 12:34:09 PM

Sander and the other academics who intend to participate in the project have gone to great lengths to protect applicants' identities in their study proposals, yet the Bar steadfastly refuses to agree to anything. This could be an interesting and meaningful study, but it probably will never come to pass.

Posted by: Doug Richmond | Aug 20, 2008 12:44:49 PM


I may be factually incorrect, but it's my belief that the article you linked to leads readers to incorrect understandings. For example, take the notion of the sole minority member of a particular law school class who fears that his/her performance on the bar exam will be identified to the social scientists. I don't think that's how it would work. I am certain that the social scientists have published pieces addressing the confidentiality issue. Perhaps you could link to those or simply pick up the phone and call Rick Sander.

I agree that confidentiality concerns must be carefully protected. I just don't think that the C&F apps or the kinds of things mentioned in that article are really at issue here.

Posted by: John Steele | Aug 20, 2008 7:34:08 PM

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