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A federal judge has rejected a would-be law student’s suit demanding extra time to take the LSAT due to his learning disabilities after finding that the evidence in a nonjury trial revealed that his impairments are “mild” and do not qualify as a disability under the law. In the suit, plaintiff Jonathan Love claimed that he suffers from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, and that the Law School Admission Council Inc. violated the Americans With Disabilities Act by denying his request for a reasonable accommodation. His lawyers argued that without an accommodation, Love would suffer irreparable harm because “the LSAT is not merely one more exam; it is the gatekeeper to law school.” Love was seeking an injunction requiring that he be given 50 percent more time � 52.5 minutes rather than 35 minutes � to take each section of multiple-choice questions. A 25-year-old graduate of Baylor University in Waco, Texas, Love is currently enrolled in a master’s of business administration program at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. He first took the LSAT in October 2003 without any accommodations and scored 150, ranking him in the 46th percentile nationally. While his lawsuit was pending, the LSAC allowed Love to take the test again with the extra time, but withheld the scores pending the outcome of the case. Love has already applied to and been accepted by four law schools � Florida Coastal Law School, Thomas Jefferson Law School, Mississippi College School of Law and Regent Law School � according to court papers, but wanted to pursue admission to higher-ranked schools with an LSAT score that his lawyers said would more accurately reflect his abilities. In court papers, lawyers for the LSAC argued that Love’s request for extra time was properly denied because LSAC disagreed with the ADHD diagnosis, and instead found that his average performance in his first LSAT showed that he is not substantially impaired. Now U.S. District Judge R. Barclay Surrick has sided with LSAC, saying Love failed to prove that he suffers from ADHD. “The record does not support a finding that plaintiff has demonstrated symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity to the extent that it is ‘disruptive and inappropriate for developmental level’ in two or more settings as required by the criteria in the DSM-IV,” Surrick wrote in his 44-page opinion in Love v. Law School Admissions Council. Instead, Surrick said, “the opposite is true. Plaintiff appears to have been the model student.” At best, Surrick said, Love proved only that he suffers from ADD, “and even then the ADD would have to be characterized as mild.” Surrick agreed with psychologists who testified that Love has a “learning disability” characterized by a “processing-speed problem.” But that diagnosis was not enough to qualify Love for relief under the ADA, Surrick found. “The fact that plaintiff is clinically diagnosed as having a learning impairment does not automatically mean that he is entitled to an accommodation under the ADA. An impairment and a disability are two different things,” Surrick wrote. LSAC’s lawyers � Grace M. Deon and Jane E. Leopold-Leventhal of Eastburn & Gray Doylestown, Pa. � argued that because Love scored in the average or above-average range on all of the timed tests that he has taken, it was apparent that his learning disability has not substantially affected his ability to read and take a test. Since Love’s IQ is 110, which is about average, the defense team argued that his scores on the timed tests he took throughout his school years were “exactly what one would expect from someone with an average IQ.” But Love’s lawyers � Charles Weiner of Doylestown and Laurence W. Paradis, Lisa Burger and Mary-Lee E. Kimber of Disability Rights Advocates in Berkeley, Calif. � argued that it would be inappropriate to depend on quantitative outcomes alone in determining whether a disability exists. In the case of someone who is extremely bright and hardworking, the plaintiff’s team said, it is unfair to base a finding of no disability on average test scores. Surrick agreed that “outcomes alone should not be determinative,” but found that the facts did not match the plaintiff’s arguments. “If plaintiff’s IQ was 140 and he scored within the average range on standardized tests and the LSAT, the suggestion that a learning disability was the cause would have more credence,” Surrick wrote. Looking at all the evidence, Surrick found that Love fell short of proving that he has a disability because his school records made little mention of disruptive behavior, and he had never before sought help or formal accommodations. As for his reading impairment, Surrick found that it “does not substantially limit his ability to read and learn as compared to the average person as is required under the ADA.” In an interview yesterday, Leopold-Leventhal said she was gratified that the judge had agreed with LSAC and its experts in finding that Love is not disabled. “All along, we felt that we were the ones representing the rights of the disabled,” Leopold-Leventhal said. LSAC, she said, grants about 75 percent of the requests it receives for accommodations, but also considers it important to deny requests that are not valid and to defend those decisions in court if necessary. Love, she said, was “trying to take advantage of the system,” and it would have infringed on the rights of truly disabled students if he had been granted an accommodation he does not need. Weiner declined to comment on the ruling and said no decision has yet been made about whether to pursue an appeal.

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