Brian Leiter's Law School Reports

Brian Leiter
University of Chicago Law School

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

How to Pass the South Carolina Bar Exam

Be related to someone politically powerful, it seems:

The South Carolina Bar has called on the state's high court to explain why it changed the grades of 20 people -- including the children of a judge and legislator -- from "fail" to "pass" on the state bar exam taken in July....

The Bar encouraged the state Supreme Court to "further explain what happened and take steps to avoid a recurrence of these events." The Bar also said it regretted that the controversy had generated criticism of the state's legal profession....

Would-be lawyers must pass the bar exam to practice law in South Carolina, and the Supreme Court has the final say on the grades.

In an earlier statement, the high court said it decided Nov. 1 -- a week after grades were posted -- to throw out the test section on wills, trusts and estates, increasing the number who passed to 448, after its clerk learned of a "scoring error" by the section's grader. The Supreme Court has issued no further explanation.

The additional 20 included Catherine Harrison, daughter of House Judiciary Chairman Jim Harrison, R-Columbia; and Kendall Burch, daughter of Circuit Court Judge Paul Burch, raising questions on blogs and media reports about good ol' boy politics.

Both Rep. Harrison and Judge Burch have acknowledged contacting court officials but say it was not to lobby on their daughters' behalf.

Harrison said Friday he called George Hearn, chairman of the Board of Law Examiners, after his daughter told him "almost everybody she talked to had failed that one section." He said he asked only whether the failure rate for the section was abnormally high.

With Hearn out of town, Harrison called the Supreme Court's clerk to ask the same question. Harrison said he had no other contact with court officials and knew nothing about the court's reasoning.

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