By Derek M. Ciulla
The Bar exam is a grueling exam that takes a physical and emotional toll on everyone who attempts to take it. It is every law student’s worst nightmare to be informed that they have failed. However, can you imagine what a law student must feel like when they actually pass but are informed they failed? Well that’s exactly what happened to 90 applicants who took the Georgia bar exam on July 2015 and February 2016.
The Chairman of the Board of Bar Examiners issued the following statement regarding the debacle:
“As members of the Board of Bar Examiners, we take full responsibility for the integrity of the Bar Examination and are working to restore trust in the scoring process. As attorneys ourselves, we recognize the seriousness of this mistake and deeply regret the distress we know this has caused. We have conducted a thorough investigation. We have determined the causes of these errors. Most importantly, we are taking steps to ensure this does not happen again.” (Kathryn Rubino, Georgia Mistakenly Tells People They Failed the Bar Exam, Above The Law, http://abovethelaw.com/2016/09/georgia-mistakenly-tells-people-they-failed-the-bar-exam/2/)
Last month, the Board of Bar Examiners offered to reimburse those who were misinformed for any examinations they had taken subsequent to learning they had failed the exam. There were two separate errors. The first error was discovered when someone who had undertaken the July, 2015 bar exam, applied for admission to the bar in another state. A component of the customary procedure for responding to an inquiry from another jurisdiction, is that the applicant’s score history be pulled. In doing so, the Board of Bar Examiners discovered an irregularity in the reporting of the applicant’s score. This then led to a wider investigation, which ultimately uncovered the scoring error.
A different scoring methodology was used for the score calculation for the February, 2016 examination, which produced a dissimilar result. Consequently, the Board of Bar Examiners returned to their prior procedure for calculation. The use of the prior procedure resulted in passing scores for some who had been notified that they failed.
Now comes the plaintiff, Lloyd Dan Murray Jr., in this class action lawsuit. Despite the Board of Bar Examiners taking full responsibility for the fiasco, the named defendant is ILG Information Technologies, a software company. The plaintiff’s attorney, Brent Savage, said, “It wouldn’t be awkward for me to sue the state bar…” But he resolved that a corporation—ostensibly with insurance and assets—would be a far better choice.
The lawsuit alleges that ILG Information Technologies designed the method by which grades on the essays were scaled, which ultimately caused the erroneous reportage to the 90 applicants that they failed the exam.
The lawsuit being in its infancy, makes it very difficult to project, predict or even guess what the outcome will be and what additional restitutions will be made to the 90 applicants, if any. What can be ascertained at this point is that receiving compensation for subsequent bar exams after being told you failed when you passed doesn’t begin to make up for the sleepless nights, the stress of possibly losing employment, the severe drop in self-esteem, and the various other emotional stressors that these 90 applicants endured during that time period.
As a law student that will be gearing up to sit for the bar in 2017, I cannot imagine how I would even begin to feel or react to being notified that I had failed, only to be told up to a year later, that I had indeed passed. The prospect of having to sit down and start from square-1, study for countless hours, re-take all of the prep courses, re-invest time and money for the bar exam is daunting and overwhelming. It is my sincere hope that the 90 applicants involved find proportional restitution for this calamity.
Student Bio: Derek is currently a 4L evening division student and Lead Blog Editor with the Journal of High Technology Law at Suffolk University Law School. He holds a B.A. in Sociology from Pace University.