Thursday, December 19, 2013
UCLA Law Prof Rick Sander today won a unanimous victory in the California Supreme Court in his lawsuit seeking access to bar admission data to further study his "mismatch" theory of affirmative action in Sander v. State Bar of California, No. S194951 (Dec. 19, 2013):
Plaintiffs Richard Sander, Joe Hicks, and the California First Amendment Coalition requested that the State Bar of California (State Bar) provide them access to information contained in its bar admissions database, including applicants‟ bar exam scores, law school attended, grade point averages, Law School Admissions Exam scores, and race or ethnicity. Plaintiff Sander sought this information in order to conduct research on racial and ethnic disparities in bar passage rates and law school grades.
The question presented is whether any law requires disclosure of the State Bar‟s admissions database on bar applicants. We conclude that under the common law right of public access, there is a sufficient public interest in the information contained in the admissions database such that the State Bar is required to provide access to it if the information can be provided in a form that protects the privacy of applicants and if no countervailing interest outweighs the public‟s interest in disclosure. Because the trial court concluded that there was no legal basis for requiring disclosure of the admissions database, the parties did not litigate, and the trial court did not decide, whether and how the admissions database might be redacted or otherwise modified to protect applicants‟ privacy and whether any countervailing interests weigh in favor of nondisclosure. Consequently, the Court of Appeal will be directed to remand the case to the trial court.
(Hat Tip: Francine Lipman.)