Civil Rights Complaint Filed Against State Bar of California for Failing to Provide an Accessible Bar Exam
May 18, 2023 – Berkeley, CA – Today, four law school graduates with disabilities have filed a group complaint with the United States Department of Justice against the State Bar of California for consistently violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to provide accommodations on the California bar exam. Read the complaint.
The State Bar has created a two-tier system where disabled test takers must spend exceptional resources just to apply for testing accommodations. Once candidates apply, the State Bar routinely denies common accommodations such as extended time, a private room, speech recognition software, or permission to stand and stretch. Often candidates have a long-documented history of receiving the requested accommodations in law school, on the LSAT, and on other exams. The State Bar often requests further expensive documentation and denies accommodations shortly before the exam, leaving test takers with little or no time to secure documentation and appeal.
Complainant Rosa Rico said, “I feel outraged the State Bar forced me to jump through so many hoops just to receive the accommodations to which I am entitled. Forcing me to take the exam without the accommodations I need was exhausting and unfair.”
Among other things, the complaint requests the State Bar diversify the consultants who review testing accommodation requests, defer to and grant accommodations previously granted on standardized tests and in law school, and give more weight to the assessments of treating and examining professionals and less to the bar’s consultants, when reviewing the test taker’s accommodation request.
Complainants are represented by Disability Rights Advocates and Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, two national legal nonprofits that protect and advance the civil rights of disabled people.
Claudia Center, Legal Director at Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, said, “It has been over thirty years since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, but the State Bar of California’s outrageous testing accommodation practices continue to exclude and demean qualified law graduates with disabilities. It’s past time for disability diversity and inclusion in the legal profession. Testing accommodations are a basic right and are critical for diversifying the profession.”
Jinny Kim, Managing Attorney at Disability Rights Advocates, said, “We are asking the Department of Justice to ensure that the State Bar of California complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act so that test takers can take the bar exam on a level playing field. The State Bar’s practices continue to exclude people with disabilities from the legal profession.”
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Disability Rights Advocates is the leading national nonprofit disability rights legal center. Its mission is to advance equal rights and opportunity for people with all types of disabilities nationwide. DRA represents people with all types of disabilities in complex, system-changing, class action cases. Thanks to DRA’s precedent-setting work, people with disabilities across the country have dramatically improved access to education, health care, employment, transportation, disaster preparedness planning, voting, and housing. For more information, visit https://dralegal.org/
Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, founded in 1979, is a leading national civil rights law and policy center directed by individuals with disabilities and parents who have children with disabilities. DREDF’s mission is to advance the civil and human rights of people with disabilities through legal advocacy, training, education and public policy and legislative development. For more information, visit https://dredf.org/