Affirmative Action, Bar Exams, Law Schools, Racism

Because We Haven’t Had a Comments Clusterf**k in a While

Stephen Carter Stephen L Carter Reflections of an Affirmative Action Baby Above the Law blog.jpgIt’s a term of art. We define a “comment clusterf**k as a post that generates over 100 reader comments (typically of a vicious and nasty nature — but that could be said of many, if not most, comments on ATL). We enjoy a good “CC,” and we haven’t had one here since Friday.
Hence this post. There’s no more surefire way to generate one than writing about affirmative action, a topic that tends to send y’all into a tizzy. From Fox News (gavel bang: commenter):

Does affirmative action work? An explosive study that suggests it does not is pitting the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights against the State Bar of California in a battle over admissions data that could determine once and for all if racial preferences help or hurt minority students.

“Currently only about one in three African-Americans who goes to an American law school passes the bar on the first attempt and a majority never become lawyers at all,” says UCLA law professor Richard Sander.

In an article published in the Stanford Law Review, Sander and his research team concluded several thousand would-be black lawyers either dropped out of law school or failed to pass the bar because of affirmative action.

Wow — those are shocking statistics. What’s the explanation?
Read more, after the jump.

Here’s what Professor Sander thinks about the reason for the data:

Known as the ‘mismatch’ effect, Sander claims students who are unprepared and whose academic credentials are below the median are admitted to law schools they are unqualified to attend. If those same students instead were to go to less elite or competitive schools, more would graduate, pass the bar and become lawyers.

Sander would like to gather more data, but the bar examiners aren’t cooperating:

Recently, a California bar committee voted 5-3 to turn down Sander’s request to use bar data collected over the last three decades on student test scores, law school admissions, academic performance and bar passage rates.

The data, considered a gold standard by affirmative action researchers, is considered key to determine if racial preferences work.

“There is no answer but to give him the information,” says black civil rights attorney Leo Terrell. “What is the state bar afraid of? We need to know.”

But the Bar refuses to give Sander the data.

Here’s what they claim:

“The release (bar exam) applicants sign does not allow us to release the information to third parties,” Whitnie Henderson told FOX News. “Looking at all the information we just decided it was not something that fit within the committee’s purview.”

Henderson headed the committee that rejected Sander’s request. Contrary to her statement, twice in the last 15 years the California Bar released individual information to outside researchers.

Please discuss AA in what we hope will become a CC. Yes, this topic been discussed endlessly in these pages — as well as the pages of academic journals and the Supreme Court Reporter. But that’s okay; keep at it. Someday a brilliant, three-line ATL comment will settle the affirmative action debate, once and for all!
To kick off the discussion, WWCTT: What would Clarence Thomas think? Justice Thomas opposes affirmative action, which he believes unfairly casts doubt upon African-American accomplishments (among other things). But he has great confidence in the abilities of African-Americans, and he hates patronizing arguments claiming that they don’t have what it takes.
State Bar of California, Civil Rights Group Spar Over Affirmative Action [Fox News]

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