Law School Sues State Bar Again, but This Time It’s Not about Lousy Bar Success Rate

Monday, December 30, 2013

Last August, U.S. District Judge James V. Selna dismissed a law school’s lawsuit, with prejudice (i.e. don’t bring this issue back to court again), that alleged the California State Bar had violated its civil rights by revising the state’s accreditation standards last year to include a 40% bar passage rate by graduates over five years time.

The Southern California Institute of Law (SCIL), a part-time, night school founded in 1986 with campuses in Ventura and Santa Barbara, has a 7% success rate, according to The law school contended that the bar’s requirement that it publish a link to its abysmal bar exam rate was an unconstitutional compulsion of speech and that the bar success rate had nothing to do with the quality of education.

The judge did not agree.

So when the law school returned to court this month with a new lawsuit, they didn’t focus on the pass rate. Honest. It says so right in their latest pleading before the court: “This complaint emphatically has nothing to do with the specific Bar pass rates of any particular law school among the CALS [California Accredited Law Schools] or with plaintiff SCIL's Bar pass rates.”

Instead, this lawsuit is about the retaliation taken against it by the bar after the August suit was dismissed. According to Courthouse News Service, the suit addresses “the limits of state power and the application of state procedural and substantive due process, as well as accountability for the malicious misuse and abuse of governmental powers. . . . This complaint alleges that senior staff and members of the CBE violated due process and did so with venal intent.”   

This suit allegedly has nothing to do with students at SCIL finding out that only 1 out of 25 former students passed the bar in February 2012 after having already failed it at least once. They fared better in February 2013; 8 of 33 passed (24%). First-time test-takers were a cumulative 1 for 5 (20%) in February of both years. All the test takers did worse in July 2012. First-time test takers were 0 for 14 and repeat takers were 0 for 29. The bar exam is given twice a year.

There are more important issues than law school graduates being unable to pass the bar exam. The new lawsuit, according to CNS, raises, again, constitutional issues and, apparently, questions about appropriate modes of behavior:

“Unconstrained by constitutional limitation, these regulators believing they are shielded by absolute immunity fashioned their quasi-judicial writ into hostile, retaliatory and discriminatory truncheons of power to try browbeating into docile subservience and submission a small California-accredited law school that caters to a diverse demographic and to mostly low-middle income students.”   

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Irate Fulmination Against California Bar (by Robert Kahn, Courthouse News Service)

Southern California Institute of Law v. Archie “Joe” Biggers et al (Tentative Order re: Motion to Dismiss)

California Tightens State Law School Accreditation. A Little. (The Faculty Lounge)

Statistics for California Bar Examination (California State Bar)

Law School Enrollment Drops to 38-Year Low; Employment Down to 1994 Level (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

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