The Law School Admission Council has won the first round in its legal battle against the state of California over a law that seeks to protect disabled Law School Admission Test takers.
Sacramento County, Calif., Superior Court Judge Raymond Cadei on February 1 issued a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of Assembly Bill 2122. That law prohibits the council from alerting law schools when applicants with disabilities received extra time on the LSAT. Such notifications are known as "flagging."
The ruling means that the flagging ban will not apply to scores earned during the February 9 administration of the LSAT, the first since the bill went into effect on January 1. The council sued the state on January 4, alleging that the law violates its right to freedom of speech and unfairly applies to the council but not to other standardized testing agencies.
Cadei did not take up the council’s free speech arguments, but agreed that the law’s singular focus on law school admissions was a problem.
"The legislature’s legitimate interest in prohibiting discrimination is not in dispute," Cadei wrote. "However, legislation that seeks to further this interest must not single out one particular entity for regulation without a rational basis for doing so."
Most major testing entities do not flag scores taken under nonstandard conditions (the organization that administers the Medical College Admission Test is one notable exception). But if additional testing companies decided to change course and begin flagging scores, the law would not prevent them from doing so, Cadei wrote.
The California attorney general’s office did not respond to a call for comment.
The council’s handling of accommodation requests have long rankled disability advocates. Council administrators acknowledge that their screening of accommodation requests is more rigorous than those for nearly every other standardized testing organization, but they argue that close scrutiny protects the LSAT’s integrity as a predictor of who will succeed in law school.
Council research shows that LSAT scores earned when takers had extra time were not comparable to scores earned within the standard time limit — although some disability advocates have disputed this finding.
The council says it typically receives about 2,000 requests for accommodations each year and provides at least some type of accommodation to approximately half. The council does not flag scores earned with accommodations that do not involve extra time on the exam, such as extra break time between test sections or a separate testing room. Extra time on the exam is the most common accommodation request, and people with learning disorders and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder account for the largest number of accommodation seekers.
The counsel is defending a separate federal class action brought last spring by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing on behalf of disabled LSAT takers. That suit alleges the council’s policies violate the Americans With Disabilities Act.
A federal judge in October allowed the U.S. Department of Justice to intervene in the suit. The same judge ruled on January 29 that the Justice Department could bring claims for plaintiffs outside of California, making the lawsuit national in scope.
Contact Karen Sloan at firstname.lastname@example.org.