Board backs raising exam pass line, with proviso

first_img April 30, 2000 Gary Blankenship Associate Editor Regular News Board backs raising exam pass line, with proviso Associate Editor The Bar Board of Governors has agreed to support the Florida Board of Bar Examiners’ petition to raise the passing score of the bar exam, as long as that action doesn’t make it more difficult for minorities to become lawyers.The board on April 7 approved the recommendation of a special committee appointed to study the issue. The Bar’s Student Education and Admissions to the Bar Committee had recommended the board oppose the FBBE action.Chair Harley Herman said committee members will individually file a petition opposing the higher passing mark with the Supreme Court, which is considering the FBBE’s request.FBBE has asked to raise the score from 131 to 136 over a two-year period.Board member John Yanchunis, who is also a bar examiner, said the FBBE has some of the highest character and fitness standards in the country for Bar applicants, but the test scores are at the low end of the scale. With a passing score of 131, applicants have to get only 56 percent of the exam correct, he said, and the 136 score will raise that to 59 percent.“Here we were allowing students to gain admission to the Bar having demonstrated they only knew 56 percent of the questions we were asking them,” Yanchunis said. “By moving the pass-fail line, you will see an effect on the number of students who fail, but over a couple of years, the student pool adapts to it and the level of passing adjusts upward.”Herman said SEABC members did not see any connection between a higher score and competency of lawyers.“Things have to be done with the bar exam to ensure they [new lawyers] have more competence. This proposal will not do that,” he said.Joseph Harbaugh, dean of the Nova Southeastern law school, said he represented six of Florida’s seven ABA-accredited law schools in opposing the FBBE’s request. Those schools are requesting the Supreme Court to delay acting on the examiners’ request until studies have been done.“Is there a need to increase the passing score on the bar exam in order to ensure that only competent lawyers will be admitted to The Florida Bar?” Harbaugh asked. “There’s no indication that the members of this Bar are less competent than those in bars of other jurisdictions that have higher standards.”He also said the FBBE was only speculating that the higher score would have no undue impact on minority admissions.Board members expressed differing opinions on whether the board should take a position. Board member William Kalish, who chaired the special committee and is a former chair of the FBBE, refuted claims the FBBE had avoided bringing the issue to governors. He noted the FBBE told the board of its plans more than a year ago, invited board members to a meeting at last year’s Annual Meeting and distributed the petition to the board late last year.A motion that the board should take no position on the FBBE petition failed 17-25, and then the board, by voice vote, approved the special committee’s proposal to support the FBBE unless it is shown raising the passing score would adversely affect minorities’ access to the profession. Board backs raising exam pass line, with provisolast_img

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