Southern California Institute of Law Suing State Bar

Law School Claims Minimum Bar Passage Rate Is Unconstitutional

The Southern California Institute of Law, an accredited private law school with campuses in Santa Barbara and Ventura, continues to challenge the State Bar of California over its minimum bar passage rate to maintain accreditation, arguing the requirement violates its students’ first amendment rights. The regulation, which became effective in 2013, states that law schools must have a 40 percent minimum bar passage rate over five years to keep accreditation.

According to Southern California Institute of Law Dean Stanislaus Pulle, the school is not giving up on the lawsuit — originally filed two years ago in federal court and dismissed twice, most recently by the U.S. 9th District Court of Appeals in August — because the passage rate requirement infringes upon low-income, non-traditional students’ right to pursue their dream of becoming a lawyer, even if the dream is unrealistic.

As Pulle said in an interview, many of the students who attend the Southern California Institute of Law are only able to do so because of its relatively low cost of tuition ($8,000 per year compared to nearly $50,000 annual tuition at nationally accredited law schools) and if the school were forced to meet minimum bar passage rates, it would have to accept students with a higher chance of passing the bar, generally those from more privileged socioeconomic backgrounds.

The school’s lawsuit also resists the State Bar of California’s requirement to post annual bar passage rates online under the premise that passage rates alone do not indicate the quality of a legal education. According to a statistics report from the February 2015 California Bar Examination, of the 28 students who took the bar at both campuses this February, two passed.


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