Disability Rights Program takes on Law School Admissions Council for Discrimination Against Prospective Lawyers with Disabilities

Legal Update
Disability Rights Program takes on Law School Admissions Council for Discrimination Against Prospective Lawyers with Disabilities
Disability Program Assisting Class of Prospective Lawyers

On behalf of three individuals, the Legal Aid Society–Employment Law Center sought permission to join a federal court case alleging that the Law School Admissions Council discriminates against prospective lawyers with disabilities. 

The case was initiated earlier this year by California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing on behalf of a class of Californians with disabilities who requested accommodations on the LSAT, the high-stakes entrance examination for law school.  The enforcement agency claims that the practices of the LSAC, the entity that administers the LSAT, are in violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act, a state law.  The case is being heard in federal court because the LSAC is headquartered in Pennsylvania.  The presiding judge is Edward M. Chen. 

The proposed complaint of LAS–ELC claims that the LSAC is also in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a federal statute.  According to the complaint, the LSAC excludes and discriminates against test-takers with disabilities by imposing onerous and unnecessary documentation requirements upon those needing accommodations, by operating arbitrary and unpredictable procedures for evaluating requests, and by refusing in many instances to make any testing modifications at all.  Even those who obtain testing accommodations continue to face discrimination – their scores are “flagged” by the LSAC as having been taken under “non-standard” conditions. 

In 2008, the ADA was amended to expand the definition of “disability” to include persons with a broader array of physical and mental impairments.  In 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice issued regulations detailing the compliance obligations of testing administrators including the LSAC.  LAS–ELC’s complaint alleges that the LSAC is in violation of these legal standards. 

According to Claudia Center, Director of LAS-ELC's Disability Rights Program and counsel for the individual plaintiffs:  “The integration of the legal profession to include qualified individuals with disabilities, and the elimination of disability bias at decisive entry points like the LSAT, are critical civil rights objections.”  Because the original case is being brought as a class action, she added, the lawsuit has the potential to permanently reform the LSAC’s policies and practices, which have long been the subject of criticism and individual lawsuits.