SAN FRANCISCO, Nov. 7, 2016 – Today a judge ruled in favor of the State Bar’s protection of bar applicants’ privacy from requests for personal information. The order affirms the bar’s decision to protect individually identifiable personal information of bar applicants, including race, ethnicity, law school, grade-point average, LSAT scores, and bar scores.
This San Francisco Superior Court ruling on the lawsuit brought by UCLA professor Richard Sander and others seeking 36 years of detailed personal information about bar applicants is a significant win for individual privacy.
Today’s ruling finds that releasing the sensitive, personal information of applicants in this case would have “real, personal consequences for State Bar applicants” because it could inadvertently identify individuals and that “non-disclosure of the data protects the general public from the adverse consequences of disclosure.”
The State Bar has opposed the release of the data because it violates the commitment made to law students regarding privacy and limited use of their records and personal information. No other State Bar has released this kind of data.
Intervenors in the lawsuit include Black Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles, the John M. Langston Bar Association of Los Angeles, and over a dozen attorneys licensed in California. Law school professor Erika Wilson testified during the trial in this case that, because she was just one of four black women to graduate from UCLA in her class year, disclosure of the data could unfairly identify her.
“The bar is committed to protecting the individual privacy interests of all applicants who take the bar exam,” said Elizabeth Rindskopf Parker, executive director of the State Bar of California.
The State Bar of California became subject to the California Public Records Act (CPRA) in 2016 under Senate Bill 387 and complies fully with public records requests. State law also protects confidentiality of State Bar admission data. The ruling notes that under this law, identifying information submitted to the bar by an applicant “shall be confidential and shall not be disclosed pursuant to any law, including the CPRA.”
Additionally, the court balanced the public’s interest in disclosure of the data against the private interests in non-disclosure. It concluded that the private interest of individual applicants in non-disclosure clearly outweighs the public interest served by disclosure of the records because disclosure would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.
The State Bar has maintained that the data in question cannot be released in a manner that would protect individual privacy without substantially altering the data. A release of the data would violate individual privacy interests because it would still make it possible for applicants to be identified with bar exam scores, race and other information.
Categorized in: Legal Procedure
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