August 26, 2011

Non-Wednesday review grant in State Bar records confidentiality case

Our summary of actions taken by the Supreme Court in civil cases this week did not report one grant of review because the court granted review in the case yesterday instead of at its weekly conference on Wednesday.

The court granted review in Sander v. State Bar, which, according to the Court of Appeal opinion, involves a UCLA law professor’s request for State Bar admissions records so that he can “conduct academic research on discrepancies in bar passage rates among racial and ethnic groups.” The National Law Journal has reported that the professor “has published controversial research in the past concluding that affirmative action at elite institutions hurts minorities because they face academic disadvantages.”

Citing privacy concerns, the State Bar refused the records request, a refusal the trial court upheld. The Court of Appeal, however, directed the trial court “to determine whether the Bar must produce the requested information after balancing the applicants’ interest in confidentiality and the burden this request imposes on the Bar against the strong public policy favoring disclosure.” The Supreme Court has limited the issues before it to: “(1) What ground, if any, exists for finding that the information sought by plaintiffs is information that is subject to public disclosure? (2) What is the effect, if any, of the representation of confidentiality made by the State Bar to the individuals from whom the information was collected? (3) Does the form in which the requested information is regularly maintained affect whether the State Bar must provide the requested information?”

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