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COURT AGREES WITH STATE BAR AND MINORITY BAR ORGANIZATIONS AND BLOCKS DISCLOSURE OF BAR EXAM APPLICANTS’ RACE, PASSAGE RATE, AND OTHER IDENTIFYING INFORMATION

In a California Superior Court ruling filed on Monday, November 7, 2016, the State Bar of California achieved a major victory in the Sander et al. v. State Bar of California et al. case. The Court denied the Petitioners’ (Richard Sander et al.) petition for a writ of mandate ordering the State Bar to provide records requested in May 2008. Specifically, Petitioners requested California State Bar exam applicant data for those that applied between 1072 and 2008. Petitioners seek information about applicants’ race, law school, transfer status, year of law school graduation, law school GPA, undergraduate GPA, LSAT score, whether the applicant passed the bar, and scores (raw and scaled) for each component of each bar exam taken. Black Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles, Inc. (“BWL”) intervened in this case in 2015 due to the important records at stake and its position that the State Bar should not release such confidential, private records. Indeed, BWL participated in a letter from several bar associations to the State Bar protesting the disclosure of such confidential information as early as 2007. Petitioner Richard Sander, a UCLA Law School professor, has been trying to gain access to these records since 2006. During the trial in San Francisco in July 2016, Past President Nicole Hancock Husband testified on BWL’s behalf regarding BWL’s position against disclosure. John M. Langston Bar Association President Kimberly Willis also testified on behalf of Langston.

On November 7th, the Court denied the petition for a writ of mandate on the following grounds: (1) the disclosure of the requested records pursuant to any of the protocols suggested by Petitioners requires creation of a new record, which the State Bar is not required to do by law; (2) the requested records are barred from disclosure pursuant to Business & Professions Code Section 6060.25; (3) the requested records are exempt from disclosure pursuant to Government Code Section 6254(k) in that disclosure is prohibited by state law; (4) the requested records are exempt from disclosure pursuant to Government Code Section 6254(c) in that disclosure constitutes an unwarranted invasion of privacy; and (5) the requested records are exempt from disclosure pursuant to Government Code Section 6255(a), the California Public Records Act’s “catch-all” exemption. Although the Petitioners have the right to appeal the decision and may indeed do so, BWL views this ruling as a significant victory in the long fight against the State Bar’s disclosure of these records. BWL is proud to participate in important cases like this to protect the rights of its members and those of the larger legal community in Los Angeles. If you would like to read the opinion, please click HERE to access the opinion.

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