California Law School Claims First Amendment Right Not to Report Bar Passage Rates

The WSJ Law Blog reports that the Southern California Institute of Law claims that it cannot be required to disclose the bar passage rate of its graduates as a condition of accreditation. Such a requirement, SCIL claims, runs afoul of the First Amendment.

Southern California Institute of Law is suing bar association officials for requiring that it include information on its website advising students where they can view exam passage rates online.

The school argues — in a federal lawsuit filed February — that the rule infringes on its speech rights. It claims that it forces them to endorse the notion that a school’s exam passage rate reflects the quality of its legal education. SCIL thinks one has nothing to do with the other.

“[D]efendants have no right to foist their ideology onto SCIL and compel it to refer or disclose bar passage rates of its graduates,” the school stated in a legal brief last week. . . .

None of the 43 SCIL graduates who took the 2012 California Bar Examination passed, according to state data. Over the course of a dozen test cycles between 2007 and 2012, SCIL graduates failed 93% of the time, the defendants claim.

“There are good years, and there are bad years when it comes to bar passage,” said SCIL’s attorney, George Shohet. “It’s not something that the school can control.” He said going to law school and passing the bar require “different skill sets.”

Note that SCIL is not objecting to a particularly detailed dislcosure. Rather, according to the above report, it objects to having to post the following statement on its accreditation page:

For information relating to bar pass rates, on this school and other CBE-accredited law schools you may consult http://admissions.calbar.ca.gov/Examinations/Statistics.aspx

Hat tip: Paul Caron .