While announcing the fate of the fall bar exam on Thursday, the California Supreme Court blindsided just about everyone with related news: Justices would drop the passing score on the exam from 144 to 139—immediately and permanently.

The decision marked a sea change for a court that for years resisted calls to lower the second-highest-in-the-nation cut score, even as the pass rate slumped to historic lows twice between 2018 and 2020. Justices said repeatedly they wanted more studies and solid evidence that a score change was warranted.

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