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Law School Admission Council Sues California

(CN) - The Law School Admission Council sued California, claiming the state keeps law schools from getting "truthful, accurate and non-misleading information about test scores," by refusing to reveal if people get extra time to take the LSAT exam.

The Law School Admission Council sued the state, governor, attorney general and superintendent of public instruction, in Sacramento Superior Court.

The Admission Council challenges Assembly Bill 2122, which Gov. Gerry Brown signed into law on Sept. 26, 2012, and it took effect on New Year's Day.

It claims the law "intentionally singles out and discriminates against LSAC by making section 99161.5 applicable to only the 'test sponsor of the Law School Admission Test' and not to other, similarly situated entities that administer standardized tests in California."

This, and the threat of civil penalties, violates the constitutional right to equal protection and free speech, the Admission Council says.

"Section 99161.5 amounts to a trial by Legislature. It usurps the role of the judicial branch by punishing the conduct of a single, specific entity, in the absence of any evidentiary basis that the harm which the statute purportedly addresses actually exists," the complaint states.

"California's current standardized testing law applies to all test sponsors that administer tests which are used 'for the purpose of admission to, or class placement in, postsecondary educational institutions or their programs, or ... for preliminary preparation for those tests," the Admission Council say. (Ellipsis in complaint.)

These tests include Advanced Placement Tests, the ACT Assessment, and the Medical College Admission Test, the complaint states.

The Admission Council claims that section 99161.5 introduces new restrictions and requirements that affect only it and the LSAT.

"Among other things, the new law prohibits LSAC from providing certain truthful, test-related information to test score recipients - namely, that a given examinee took the LSAT with extra testing time, and the effect that extra testing time can have on the predictive validity of the resulting test scores. At the same time, section 99161.5 requires LSAC to provide other information to score recipients which LSAC believes to be inaccurate and potentially misleading. Section 99161.5 also imposes administrative requirements on LSAC relating to the manner in which it handles disability-based requests for extra testing time and other testing accommodations," the complaint states.

The Admission Council claims AB 2122 violates its rights under the California and U.S. Constitutions, by "expressly and intentionally treating LSAC differently from other similarly situated testing agencies without any rational basis for doing so. It violates the free speech protections found in both Constitutions by abridging LSAC's right to public or disseminate truthful information regarding the meaning of certain LSAT test scores, and by requiring LSAC to public or disseminate inaccurate and potentially misleading information regarding those LSAT test scores."

The Admission Council, a Delaware nonprofit founded in 1947, helps law schools and potential law students with the application process. More than 200 schools in the United States, Canada, and Australia are members of the organization.

The Admission Council prepares and administers the LSAT, "which is administered four times a year at designated test centers around the world."

The half-day exam tests reading, comprehension, logical reasoning and writing skills. Because It is a standardized test, "all examinees take the LSAT under the same testing conditions, including standard testing time. The primary exception is for disabled individuals who need reasonable accommodations," the complaint states.


The Admission Council says it will provide accommodations to people who send proof of a disability, and a request for a request for accommodations before the test date.

"Additional testing time is the most commonly requested LSAT accommodation. Extra testing time, however, can affect the predictive validity of the resulting scores. Multiple studies have shown that LSAT scores earned under accommodated testing conditions that include extra testing time are not comparable to LSAT scores earned under standard time conditions. Scores achieved with extra testing time tend to over-predict how the examinee will perform in the first year of law school," the complaint states.

The Admission Council says it sends letters to law schools, informing them which test takers used extra test time. It includes percentile rankings for people who used standard test time, but says it cannot do the same for those who needed extra time because "scores achieved with extra testing time are not comparable to scores achieved under standard conditions."

"Law schools have an interest in receiving truthful, accurate, non-misleading information about applicants' test scores. Likewise, individuals who take the LSAT have an interest in ensuring that LSAT score reports provide relevant and accurate information regarding the reported scores," the complaint adds.

The Admission Council claims section 99161.5 prevents it from giving law schools accurate information "regarding the interpretation of LSAT scores achieved by individuals who test in California under nonstandard time conditions that include extra testing time."

"To comply with section 99161.5(c)(1), LSAC would have to change its uniform, nationwide practice of informing law schools that a given LSAT score was obtained under nonstandard time conditions, and advising the schools that such scores do not have the same meaning as scores earned under standard time conditions," the complaint states.

The Admission Council claims the law forces it to give percentile rankings to scores earned with extra time, which it calls "inaccurate and potentially misleading."

Depending on whether section 99161.5 applies to LSATs taken before Jan. 1, 2013, or only to tests taken after this date, the Admission Council says, it could be fined up to $750 as early as Jan. 1, 2013 for not complying with the law.

The Admission Council claims the law "punishes LSAC by subjecting only LSAC to the requirements and limitation of section 99161.5, and to the risk of civil penalties. ... Section 99161.5 imposes this punishment without any adjudicative finding regarding (a) the accuracy of the score-related information that LSAC is prohibited from reporting, (b) the inaccuracy of the information that LSAC is required to report, (c) whether any examinees are actually harmed when their scores are reported as having been achieved with extra testing time, or (d) whether any examinees who test with extra testing time are actually harmed because their score reports do not contain percentile rankings or related comparative information."

It claims that law also prevents it from administering the LSAT the same way in every place where the test is given. It says the law forces it to make a choice: it can create new policies that affect only test-takers in California, which would protect the accuracy of score information for those outside California but could create "non-uniform testing policies that could disadvantage some test takers and cause some score recipients to receive incomplete or inaccurate information;" or it can change its policies for everyone and give law schools score information it believes is incorrect.

It seeks declaratory judgment that section 99161.5 is unconstitutional, and a restraining order preventing California from enforcing it.

It is represented by Robert E. Darby with Fulbright & Jaworski, in Los Angeles.

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