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Feds Join Suit Over LSAT AccommodationsU.S. District Judge Edward Chen said he will allow DOJ lawyers to intervene in a class action alleging the test provider discriminates against disabled test takers.
2012-10-18 06:19:42 PM
A federal class action accusing administrators of the LSAT exam of discriminating against disabled test-takers just got a lot bigger.
U.S. District Judge Edward Chen in San Francisco on Thursday granted a motion by the U.S. Department of Justice to intervene in the suit filed earlier this year by California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing.
That means the class of affected individuals will include disabled test-takers across the nation, not just in California.
In his order, Chen concluded the lawsuit directly impacts the federal government's interest in enforcing the Americans with Disabilities Act and that the Justice Department should be permitted to seek relief "on a national scale."
Last month, Chen fully denied a motion from the Law School Admissions Council to dismiss five causes of action in the lawsuit.
Civil trial lawyers in the U.S. attorney's office in San Francisco and in the Civil Rights Division in Washington D.C. are handling the case for the Justice Department.
In their motion to intervene, the lawyers said equal access to education and employment are "at the heart of the ADA's protection."
"Virtually every person who wants to attend a law school in America must take the LSAT, and, as a practical matter, an applicant's LSAT score may be dispositive as to whether and where they are admitted," the motion stated.
The complaint in Department of Fair Employment and Housing v. Law School Admission Council, 12-1830, targets the Law School Admission Council's treatment of test takers who sought accomodation for disabilities, usually extra time to complete the exam, when sitting for the Law School Admission Test between January 2009 and February 2012.
The admissions council required candidates seeking accommodation to submit to psychoeducational and neuropsychological testing and provide full diagnostic reports, the lawsuit states. In addition, LSAC "punished" disabled test-takers by unlawfully flagging the scores of students who received extra time to complete their exams so that it was apparent to law schools receiving the individuals score reports, the suit alleges.
Named plaintiffs suffer from a variety of disabilities, including attention deficit disorder, learning disabilites, physical injuries, traumatic head injury, impaired vision and paralysis.
The Law School Admissions Council, based in Pennsylvania, is a non-profit organization that administers the LSAT.
According to the council, more than 1,000 individuals request disability-based accommodations on the LSAT each year and most requests are granted.
In court filings, lawyers for the Law School Admissions Council defended its policies, particularly the practice of flagging scores, which lawyers said comports with the ADA.
"There is nothing in the ADA or its implementing regulations that prohibits the psychometrically sound practice of annotating test scores that are not comparable to scores achieved under standard time conditions. DOJ has never stated that the practice of flagging constitutes a form of unlawful intimidation or coercion, nor has any court reached that conclusion," wrote lead lawyer Robert Burgoyne in the Washington D.C. office of Fulbright & Jaworski.
Chen called the matter "relatively novel in ADA law."
"Flagging an individual's test results because they received some form of testing accommodations could constitute a de facto denial of accommodations," he suggested in his order denying defendant's motion to dismiss.