SACRAMENTO - The California Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether the State Bar must release racial data from the bar exam to a law professor who believes affirmative action may hurt minorities.
A SF Gate report states an appellate court had ruled in June that the professor, and the public, have a right of access to records of the lawyers' organization that don't reveal private information. But the state's high court voted unanimously Thursday to grant review of the State Bar's appeal. No hearing date has been scheduled.
The bar has collected racial information from test-takers since the 1970s, promising them confidentiality and publishing only overall results for racial and ethnic groups. But UCLA Law Professor Richard Sander wants individual information for a 25-year period, with names deleted, to test his thesis about private universities with minority admissions programs.
Sander said a study he conducted in 2004 indicated that preferential admissions policies place some minorities in top law schools where they are unable to compete effectively, decreasing their chances of passing the bar and becoming lawyers.
California voters outlawed affirmative action in state universities in 1996 with Proposition 209, but the ban does not apply to private schools.
The bar, which is both an advocacy organization for lawyers and a regulatory arm of the judicial branch of government, argued that its files are like internal court deliberations, exempt from disclosure.
Sander's challenge to that argument has drawn support from organizations uninvolved in his research quest, including The Chronicle and other news media. The First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco ruled in their favor in June, saying the bar is not a court, and its records, like those of other agencies, are presumed to be open for inspection.
In seeking state Supreme Court review, lawyers for the bar said the appellate ruling has "already spawned a host of wide-ranging 'public records' requests seeking confidential admissions and discipline records." It was up to the high court, they argued, to control access to those records.