On May 20th a consent decree was filed to resolve allegations that the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) engaged in widespread and systemic discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Under the proposed consent decree LSAC will pay $7.73 million in penalties and damages to compensate for more than 6,000 individuals nationwide who applied for testing accommodations on the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) over the past five years.
How It All Began
The United States intervened in a suit originally brought on behalf of California test takers in the Northern District of California (DFEH v. LSAC Inc.). The Department of Justice’s (DOJ) intervention expanded the case to claim nationwide relief under the ADA for individuals with disabilities who request testing accommodations for the LSAT – a required examination for anyone seeking admission to an ABA approved law school in the United States.
The Specific Complaints Against LSAC
The allegations in the complaint detail LSAC’s routine denial of testing accommodation requests, even in cases where applicants have a permanent physical disability or submitted thorough supporting documentation from qualified professionals and demonstrated a history of testing accommodations since childhood. The lawsuit further alleged that LSAC engages in discrimination prohibited by the ADA through its practice of flagging the LSAT score reports of individuals who received extended time as a testing accommodation, thereby identifying to law schools that the test taker is a person with a disability.
While LSAC did not admit guilt or liability in its agreement with the DOJ and California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, LSAC has agreed to do the following:
- Pay $7.73 million as compensation to individuals named in the United States’ and other plaintiffs’ complaints, and a nationwide victims’ compensation fund
- Cease flagging the LSAT scores of test-takers who received extra time to take the test
- Automatically grant most test accommodations if the test-taker has gotten them for other standardized exams (e.g, SAT, ACT or GED)
- Implement additional best practices for reviewing and evaluating testing accommodation requests as recommended by a panel of experts (to be created by the parties)
The resolution of this suit is just one piece of this disability-bar admissions puzzle. Other states are struggling to balance nondiscrimination with ensuring admission of “fit” students to the practice of law. But that is for another post. Until then, be glad you are not LSAC (or that you don’t have to take the LSAT again…unless you could have used that extra time).