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Bar Exam Subject Leak to be Probed in California (Corrected)

July 29, 2019, 9:44 PMUpdated: July 30, 2019, 11:25 AM

The California Supreme Court opened an investigation into how law school deans were tipped to subject areas in this week’s bar exam.

“The court will ensure that there is a thorough and independent investigation,” the Supreme Court said in a July 29 statement.

Topics were released in an email last week to deans of 16 law schools invited to observe the California Bar Examination grading process. The bar said it “had no evidence” that leaked information had been shared with students.

The California bar exam is one of the nation’s toughest and includes essay and multiple-choice questions.

Civil procedure, remedies/constitutional law, criminal law and procedure, professional responsibility, and contracts were subject areas and tasks for the bar exam that deans could observe, the email said.

The California Bar decided to release the list instead of canceling the exam or changing the topics for the two-day test starting July 30.

The bar said it would honor requests from students to withdraw and refund fees, under certain conditions.

The list of schools notified included numerous distance learning, unaccredited schools, and American Bar Association-accredited schools including University of California Hastings and Western State College of Law.

Many of the schools have had low bar-pass rates, a subject that state lawmakers and the state Supreme Court repeatedly have criticized.

The Legislature- weighed in on the controversy.

The bar has acted to “level the playing field, but the implications are still unknown” in the “unprecedented event,” Senate Judiciary Chair Hannah-Beth Jackson (D) said in an email.

“Once we are better able to assess the situation and its outcome, we will be able to determine whether the Legislature needs to take additional action, hold hearings, or do anything further to address this situation,” Jackson said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Joyce E. Cutler in San Francisco at jcutler@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at jkamens@bloomberglaw.com; John Crawley at jcrawley@bloomberglaw.com