Committee Of Bar Examiners Stripped Of Authority To Decide Bar Passage Scores

As reported in the Daily Journal, not only will the change in the Rules give the CA State Supreme Court the authority to set the passing score on the bar exam, in addition, the change will empower the Court to appoint 10 of the 19 members of the Committee of Bar Examiners. At least one of the Court’s appointments must be a judicial officer in the state. The other nine must be members of the CA State Bar.

The Court’s unprecedented action with respect to the bar exam scoring practices came as a result of the steady decline in CA bar exam passing rates, particularly during the past five years. When comparing California’s overall passing rates to that of the other 49 states, the disparity became clear. CA requires a higher score to pass the bar exam than any other state in the country, except Delaware. No empirical evidence could be produced to justify such a difference in test scores and passing rates.

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After the Assembly Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the matter earlier this year, and studied the obvious disparity between California’s scoring requirements as compared to those of the rest of the country, the Judiciary Committee determined that the Court’s new rules were sensible.

Assemblyman, Mark Stone, chair of the Judiciary Committee, said, “We also believe they [the new rules] are consistent with case law regarding the level of oversight that’s required of the Supreme Court in order to protect the state from antitrust liability.” Assemblyman Stone went on to say, “While the Committee of Bar Examiners can recommend the content and the passing score, the Supreme Court has the ultimate authority over those decisions.”

According to the Rules, while the Committee of Bar Examiners is responsible for determining the bar examination format, scope, topics, content, questions, and grading process, it is subject to review and approval by the Supreme Court.  The aim of the change in giving the CA State Supreme Court the authority to set the passing score on the CA bar exam is to create scoring practices that are both fair and uniform with the rest of the country.

For more information, go to the full article in the Daily Journal at VOL. 130 NO 127.