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Court upholds posting of bar exam pass rates

By Laura Ernde
Staff Writer

The State Bar can require California-accredited law schools to disclose information about bar exam pass rates of their graduates, a federal judge ruled last month.

U.S. District Court Judge James V. Selna tentatively dismissed a lawsuit brought by the Southern California Institute of Law last month. The school is not contesting the ruling.

“The decision vindicates the bar’s regulatory authority over these schools,” said Sean McCoy, chairman of the Committee of Bar Examiners. “It’s our responsibility to use that authority in a way that protects the integrity of the profession and protects the public.”

The committee requires California-accredited law schools to post bar passage information on their websites or publish a link to statistics maintained on the State Bar’s website. A rule requiring schools to have a separate accreditation page on their websites was approved earlier this year, along with a new requirement for the schools to maintain a cumulative bar pass rate of at least 40 percent.

The Southern California Institute of Law had challenged the rule on First Amendment grounds, arguing that the performance of an institution’s  graduates on the bar exam is not necessarily indicative of the quality of a law school education.

But Selna’s ruling said that since the law school chose to obtain accreditation, it may also be subject to certain rules. The court held that the information is factual and uncontroversial and prospective students are free to draw their own conclusions about its relevance.