On the heels of Massachusetts declaring that they’ll write their own test if they have to in order to offer students an online option, the California Supreme Court issued a letter outlining its thoughts on the licensing process for this cycle and also expressed its interest in an online option.
Technically, California committed to “work with the National Conference of Bar Examiners to facilitate the online administration of the September 2020 Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), or some variation thereof,” meaning it didn’t go as far as Massachusetts and declare that it would go rogue and compose its own test. But the statement can only be read as a shot across the NCBE’s bow, with the testing organization consistently downplaying even the possibility of an online exam.
Of all the states pushed into the traffic of the crossroads of reform by recent events, California is the most intriguing. While all states are now taking a look at their licensing regimes, California’s mess was already the subject of mounting criticism before a virus rendered status quo testing an impossibility. The cut score is far too high for the stated goal of protecting the public and functions primarily to serve a guild system controlling the flow of new entrants, it’s contributed to a massive access to justice issue, and simultaneously discriminates along racial lines and exacerbates the harm to minority candidates by accrediting sub-par law schools that primarily suck tuition dollars from minority students without affording a viable path to license.
If any state needs the diploma privilege knock-on effect of forcing a crackdown on law schools that don’t produce students capable of meeting minimum subject matter proficiency standards, it’s California.
And while it doesn’t appear as though the state is ready to fully lean into the opportunity presented by this crisis, at least it’s pushing the NCBE on the online option which is the bare minimum that any jurisdiction can offer right now. It’s not something the NCBE necessarily wants because few entities have as much wrapped up in keeping everything exactly as it is right now, they may want to consider loosening their stranglehold on how this test is administered because states like Massachusetts and California have no problem going their own way if they don’t get what they want.
California Supreme Court Orders Bar Exam Delayed, Administered Online [California Courts Newsroom]
Earlier: With NCBE Quibbling Over Online Bar Exams, Massachusetts Says They’ll Just Write Their Own
Who’s To Blame For School’s ‘Horrific’ Bar Results? Maybe The California Bar Examiners.
Joe Patrice is a senior editor at Above the Law and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. Feel free to email any tips, questions, or comments. Follow him on Twitter if you’re interested in law, politics, and a healthy dose of college sports news. Joe also serves as a Managing Director at RPN Executive Search.
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