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What Happened to the Examiners of California Bar Exam

Practicing law is not for everyone. And a bar examination helps determine whether a candidate is qualified to practice law in a given jurisdiction. And the bar exam passage rates have fallen across the nation for the past several years. Take a deeper look only to the California bar exam. Test-takers’ performance has been especially poor. It encouraged a chorus of critics to demand that California’s cut score is changed. In other words, they should lower it. Why? So that more law school graduates would be able to pass the exam in order to become practicing attorneys.

California Bar Exam

It is interesting to note that California’s passing score is 144. It is higher than that of 48 other states. And only Delaware’s cut score is higher than California’s. We all know that for decades that California bar exam was the hardest in the country. But later on, it was revealed that the fact was a bit untrue. Look. California’s mean scaled MBE scores are higher than the national average. And it means that California’s bar exam is simply the most difficult to pass. And that is thanks to its illogically high cut score. With that in mind, no empirical evidence could be provided to justify such a difference in test scores and passing rates within states.

So for the most recent exam, the State Bar of California decided to analyze the test and examine the cut score. And you know why? Because the most recent exam had a stunningly low overall passage rate of 34.5%.

So, what did the California Supreme Court do?

Frankly, the California Supreme Court decided to strip the Committee of Bar Examiners of its authority according to the Daily Journal. They did it in order to decide the minimum score needed to pass the exam:

“The state Supreme Court amended its rules to specify only the court has the authority to set the passing score on the exam.

The changes to the “California Rules of Court,” which become effective 2018, also empower the court to appoint a majority of members to the Committee of Bar Examiners.

There has not previously been a rule mandating the court set the passing score, said Cathal Conneely, a spokesman for the Supreme Court. The court has the authority to do so, and “the new rules just spell it out and make it absolutely clear,” Conneely said Friday.

The court’s action comes as the State Bar and bar examiners study whether to recommend a lower passing score on the attorney licensing test because of falling success rates.”

The court’s goal was to create scoring practices in California that were not only fair but also uniform with the rest of the country, as was noted on the Fleming’s Fundamentals of Law.

“We also believe, the new rules, are consistent with case law regarding the level of oversight that’s required of the Supreme Court in order to protect the state from antitrust liability. While the Committee of Bar Examiners can recommend the content and the passing score, the Supreme Court has the ultimate authority over those decisions.”- chair of the Assembly Judiciary Committee, Mark Stone

So, when are all the changes going to happen?

When will the California Supreme Court set a new passing score for the state’s exam? Well, you probably have to wait until the scores and passing rates for this summer’s new two-day exam are live. And there is hope for law students who are scared that they won’t be able to pass the bar exam.

 “The study on the CA bar exam cut score should be finalized next month and sent to the Supreme Court. It has already been publicly stated that a new cut score could be retroactively applied to July exam by Sup. Ct.”- Joanna Mendoza, elected trustee of the State Bar of California

So a question arises. What outcome will this change have? Will it serve to further dumb down the profession? Or will it help align the state with the rest of America when it comes to bar exam cut scores? Only the future will tell.

 

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