A federal lawsuit will be filed against the American Bar Association on behalf of a blind man arguing the required Law School Admissions Test is biased against the visually impaired and should not be required of blind law school applicants.
The suit will be filed on May 24 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Attorney Richard Bernstein (pictured) said.
Bernstein, who is blind, was the last law student to be admitted to law school 15 years ago without taking the LSAT.
The suit is being filed on behalf of Angello Binno, 28, of West Bloomfield (pictured), who was born blind.
Binno, 28, is a Wayne State University graduate who worked for two years for Homeland Security and was awarded a high security clearance.
He has been denied admission to law school five times because of his LSAT scores. His latest rejection was April 28 by the University of Detroit-Mercy School of Law. Previously, he was denied admission to the Thomas Cooley Law School, Wayne State University Law School and two other times at UD-Mercy, he said.
“All I want to do is attend law school and some day work in the area of civil rights,” said Binno.
Bernstein said Tueday that the test, which costs $139 to take and is administered by the Law School Admissions Council of Newton, Pa., discriminates against the visually impaired because it requires testers to draw diagrams and charts, something inherently discriminatory against a blind person who cannot conceive of or perceive spatial relationships.
After Northwestern University Law School admitted Bernstein, who practices law in Farmington Hills, without taking the LSAT in 1996, the American Bar Association changed its policy under pressure from the Law School Admission Council — the company that administers of the LSAT.
The ABA now threatens any law school with removing its accreditation if it enrolls blind or visually impaired students without requiring them to take the LSAT, Bernstein said.
The Law School Admissions Council is the only entity that gives the test and the LSAT is the only test used by law schools when considering enrolling a student.
The LSAC has been sued twice by the Department of Justice in 2002 and 2011 for failure to provide reasonable accommodation on the test for disabled students and for having an inaccessible website at www.lsac.org.
In the 2002 case, the LSAC refused to grant extra time to four students with cerebral palsy as a reasonable accommodation under the landmark 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act.
In that case, the DOJ noted that the LSAC asked the students to take cognitive tests to determine if they were learning disabled.
At the time, Ralph F. Boyd, Jr., assistant attorney general for Civil Rights in the Justice Department, said the agreement to allow for the students to have extra time for the LSAT under the ADA “ensures the testing procedures are fair for all parcipants in the law school application process.”
The LSAT scores of a law school applicant is a major component of the evaluation process of students applying for admission to a law school. A high LSAT score improves an applicant’s chances of getting into a top-notch law school even though statistical studies have shown there is little, if any, correlation between the LSAT scores and academic success in law school.
“We are asking that law schools have the ability to control their own admissions process without interference from the American Bar Association,” said Bernstein.
“We want law schools to be able to admit qualified visually impaired or blind candidates without having their accreditation threatened due to the blind applicant’s inability to take the LSAT since that test is biased against anyone who has a visual impairment.”
Binno graduated in 2005 from Wayne State University with a Bachelor of Arts and a major in political science.
He worked for two years for Homeland Security in the area of immigration and was given a high clearance so he could access the National Crime Information Center database.
He is not seeking any financial damages just the opportunity to be judged for law school admittance based on his grades, extracurricular activities, work performance and not his performance on the LSAT.
“We are not saying blind and visually impaired students should automatically be allowed to go to law school,” Bernstein said. “We are saying a blind student’s law school application should be complete without the LSAT.”
Binno said he “had trouble with the LSAT because it contains a lot of visionual sections he considers discriminatory, including one that requires the student to draw a map of a seating chart of seven passengers in nine seats on an airplane.
The question is part of the logical games section of the LSAT which comprises 60 points of the possible 180 points of the test.
“In answering some of the questions it may be useful to draw a rough diagram,” Question III of the official LSAT Preptest said.
“If I can’t draw a chart, how can I answer this question?” said Binno, who speaks Arabic, Chaldean and English and who has no numbers recorded in his cellular phone because he memorizes all of his contacts.
He wanted to attend the University of Detroit-Mercy Law School because it allows a student to earn a dual Juris Doctorate to practice in both America and Canada once he or she passes the state bar exam, Binno said.
The state bar exam, which tests a law school graduate’s knowledge of the law, has nothing to do with the American Bar Association.
“Why is it necessary to make a blind person draw pictures to become a lawyer?” said Bernstein.
“Requiring blind students to take the LSAT and threatening law schools with removing accreditation is summarily denying blind students the right to achieve their educational and career goals,” Bernstein said.
By limiting the number of lawyers who are visually impaired or blind, society is being punished because there will be fewer experts in these areas with personal experience with discrimination to fight for civil rights of those who are disabled or others who face societal discrimination, Bernstein said.
“If the ABA doesn’t change its policy on the LSAT, you are setting up a policy to limit the civil rights struggle for people with disabilities,” he said.
The ABA has devastated the dreams and aspirations of people with disabilities, he said.
“By limiting disabled people from getting a legal education, you are limiting the civil rights of future generations in this nation.”
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Blind lawyer to sue American Bar Association arguing the required Law School Admissions Test is biased against visually impaired applicants
The Daily Tribune in Mich.:
Posted by BA Haller at 6:47 PM