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FITSNews Exclusive – Bar Exam Flap Engulfs SC Legal Community November 7, 2007

Posted by fitsnews in SC Politics.
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FITSNews – November 7, 2007 – If there’s one thing we learned from breaking the Beattygate scandal earlier this year (and our ongoing workers’ comp coverage), it’s that a veritable sh*t-ton of lawyers read this website. Seriously, you’d think we were pure Colombian coke (or at the very least a flattering tailor) given how addicted the state’s legal community is with FITSNews, to which we can only say “we gotcha where we want’cha, now we’re gonna eat’cha.”

Actually, we won’t say that, but what we will do is break the story of a developing flap between the S.C. Supreme Court and the S.C. Bar Association, which hopefully will result in a lot more lawyers wasting additional time on our website.

As far as we can tell, the dust-up centers around the State Supreme Court effectively reversing its position on refusing appeals from students who fail the bar exam, a policy which was instituted just last year.

In a mass e-mail sent to S.C. Bar Association members yesterday, however, the Court noted that after reviewing the 2007 bar exam scores, it had “determined that the Wills, Trusts and Estates section of the examination will not be considered” and that “as a result of this change, additional applicants have now passed the examination.”

While it’s true that we’re not charter members of C+C Music Factory (God, that we were), such a quantum shift in a brand new policy definitely falls into the category of “Things That Make You Go Hmmmm.”

In fact, sources tell FITSNews that a number of powerful, politically-connected members of the S.C. Bar Association are hoppin’ mad at the Supremes right now, and that the organization may be preparing to publicly reveal what they maintain is “the truth” behind the seemingly-innocuous change.

Specifically, our sources tell us that “improper legislative pressure” was applied in this instance, although they declined to elaborate on who they were referring to, or the nature of the alleged impropriety.

All we know is that tempers are high, threats are being tossed around like weak martinis at a tort convention, and before long this thing could escalate into Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” video, except with more white people, less leather and obviously, no singing.

UPDATE – We’ve called the Supreme Court to try and get some sort of official comment from them as to why they effectively reversed this ruling, but our experience has been that the judicial branch of government rarely “puts out” when it comes to its dealings with the Fourth Estate. Stay tuned …

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1. usclawstudent07 - November 7, 2007

A certain House member who happen’s to be chairman of the judiciary committee has a daughter that failed the bar. The S.Ct. throws out the Trusts and Estates section and suddenly she’s in. Things that definitely make you go hmmm?

2. FITSNews - November 7, 2007

usclawstudent07,

Let’s see … Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee … you sure have a way of narrowing things down.

We know the Chairman well, he’s a stand-up guy, and frankly we have a hard time accepting that he would ever do anything like this …

Furthermore, we have an even harder time accepting the notion that the State Supreme Court would throw out an entire section of an exam just so one legislator’s daughter could pass.

We’re not calling you a liar, it just seems a little far-fetched.

-FITSNews

3. The Observer - November 7, 2007

heard the same thing..whether or not it’s true remains to be seen. suspicipusly the names of those that “now” passed weren’t listed..just their #’s…that would be the real insight…keep blogging

4. lolyeahright - November 7, 2007

In addition to the above-mentioned House member, there were a couple of circuit judges’ children that initially failed but then were admitted after the Wills, Trusts, and Estates section was dropped.

5. also observing. - November 7, 2007

Heard the same thing and said Chairman’s daughter seems to be taking some responsibility for the additional passers on facebook…

6. The Truth - November 7, 2007

“there were a couple of circuit judges’ children” — posted above.

Ding, ding. Therein lies at least a portion of the reason for changing scores. Shady dealings, indeed. They were better off with a case by case appellate process in place. That at least would keep the BS “you failed but not really” deals behind closed doors.

7. realist - November 7, 2007

In all, 12 of the 20 applicants granted this “late” admission to the Bar have some Judicial or Legislative connection, either by being a judicial law clerk, a judge’s child, or a legislator’s child (or some combination of these). I also understand, from various other exam-takers, that the section thrown out was widely considered the “easiest” section on the Bar this year. It’s absolutely embarrassing to the entire the SC Bar that the Supreme Court has done this.

8. Judge Roy Bean - November 7, 2007

just typically dealings under the copper dome and from behind the curtain in the merry old land of oz, by the way…didn’t Thad Viers pass the bar recently too?

9. Anonymous - November 7, 2007

Why would this surprise me? This is the good old boy network, and “daddy’s little girl” is going to pass. What about the other 100+ students that missed passing the exam because they weren’t connected??? I’m sure there were some students that were only few points away from passing. Maybe, just maybe, a few of these didn’t pass so that the entitled few would be passed. All the exams should be reviewed. If it looks like a duck, and walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck….

10. anonymous - November 8, 2007

Come on, Will, you can’t be shocked by the news that it would be someone high up in the legislature, regardless of his political affiliation. We knew it wasn’t going to be the daughter of someone who couldn’t influence a powerful committee. We knew it was someone big. And that makes sense. If it is 12 out of 20 that makes sense too, because they apparently looked for and found the common denominator and it was the T&E exam. If it weren’t backwoods politics, then the names would have been released.

And if I wrote the T&E section, I’d damn be sure releasing my exam to the Bar.

11. Don't be Afraid - November 8, 2007

I think this is mere coincedence.

There were several “connected” applicants who took the bar, and some passed, while others didn’t. And if you know identities… Do Tell!

There are some of these “connected” kids who passed the first time and their accomplishment should not be “tainted” with speculation that they might be one of the “chosen” chidren.

12. anon - November 8, 2007

The original list of those applicants who passed is still available on the Supreme Court website. You can find it here:

http://www.sccourts.org/bar/barResultsJuly2007.htm

13. Silence Dogood - November 8, 2007

Don’t be afraid. Hopefully their names won’t be tainted as the ones who passed the first time already had their names listed on the state’s Supreme Court web site for all to see. The thing that makes this hard to understand at mere coincidence is that fact that this year was the first time in a couple of decades they had changed the rule to where no one could challenge their scores – after the results came out (and theoretically the exams should have been closed forever – for some absolutely inexplicable reason some one AFTER grading all the Wills Trusts and Estates sections and AFTER predicated the passage of over 400 new attorneys to this state on those sections and AFTER calling it quits decides to go BACK in and eliminate a section when re-grading is explicitly prohibited??? The other odd thing would probably be that since the bar exams are graded anonymously until the examiners go back and see who passed and failed, waiting until after the grading to eliminate a section does give one fantastic advantage…namely, you know exactly who you are passing once you go back AFTER the fact and retroactively make the change. This is more than mere coincidence, and while I don’t know why this happened and won’t adopt any of the theories laid out here without some more evidence, it smells to high Heaven, and is so extremely odd, I would have to hear a real explanation by the S. Court or the bar association explaining why they took such an extraordinary and remarkable action before I would believe there was NOT foul play of some sort involved.

14. Utah - November 8, 2007

I heard that Chuck Norris threw out the WTE section b/c it looked at him funny.

15. dissappointed in the system - November 8, 2007

A legislator’s daughter posted these comments on a friend’s facebook page on 11/6:

First Post 1:53pm: surely you are not implying that i passed based on a technicality and not becasue of my excellent legal reasoning skills. serioulsy though, we worked really hard last week to make this happen and i’m just relieved that its all over and i can move on!

Second Post 3:07pm: no, its not a joke. if the court was going to overturn the scores on their own they would have done it before the results were first announced. it took some effort.

These are EXACT quotes. She has since deleted these posts but there are copies circulating. Regardless of whether the exams were misgraded this makes our State look bad, especially in light of the recent rule change by the Supreme Court disallowing appeals:

(7) Prohibited Contacts. An applicant shall not, either directly or through an agent, contact any member or associate member of the Board of Law Examiners or any member of the Supreme Court regarding the questions on any section of the Bar Examination, grading procedures, or an applicant’s answers.
(The entire Rule and Order are available at:
http://www.sccourts.org/opinions/displayOrder.cfm?orderNo=242)

This rule should apply to everyone, rather than applying only to those of us who are not well connected.

16. More Information Please - November 8, 2007

At first I was skeptical about all of this, and then I can across (well confirmed really) the following:
http://www.sccourts.org/whatsnew/displaywhatsnew.cfm?indexID=416

It does seem very odd not to list the names of the people who passed once the section was thrown out. I mean the names of the people who passed are normally listed:
http://www.sccourts.org/bar/barResultsJuly2007.htm

Can anyone find out the names of these people? Don’t we the general public and members of the bar have a right to now who the new bar admittees will be? Is there any rule that says names of new admittees will be published? Also, surely the Bar has (or should feel) some obligation to explain why the Trusts & Estates section was thrown out.

17. Disillusioned JD - November 8, 2007

As one of the 100+ who didn’t have a powerful daddy or boss to run to and get things changed for me, I think this might be the final straw for me that has taken away my faith in the legal community in SC. I saw instances of nepotism and good ol’ boy networking all through law school lead to similar or lesser qualified candidate get opportunities and special treatment. And now it looks as if you are related to, working for or sleeping with somebody influential then you get a free pass on the bar too. Frankly at this point even if they opened all the exams up for review, I don’t think I have the faith left in the powers that be to believe that they would not to just lie and cheat there way around that too.

18. anon - November 8, 2007

There should be a list of all admittees in the program at the swearing-in ceremony next tuesday. all it takes is a cross-check of the original list to see who the additional 20 are.

of course, by that point, the swearing-in is complete and nothing can be done. not that anything will be done anyways.

19. Joe - November 8, 2007

20. Anonymous - November 8, 2007

Has anyone reported this to the state paper?

21. Reader - November 8, 2007

The odd thing is how this would have to have happened if the Court rolled to get her to pass. Her dad must have called Justice Toal and told her that he wanted something done. Since no one can review her bar exam for content, Toal would have had NO content-based reason to think that any error had been made and would have to have been willing to punt a section with absolutely no cover whatsoever.

Moreover, she would have to have convinced two other justices to go along with that plan. Now, our justices are smart enough as veterans of the political process to know that something so brazen would be challenged. Surely they would not have thought this would go unnoticed. And besides, I cannot believe that they would be willing to do something so dumb just so this woman passed in July. I mean, it is not like retaking the bar exam in February is an impossibility.

I think that the story just makes no sense. Three of five justices wouldn’t completely disregard their judicial function for a trivial gain for one politician. And, they would have to have brought in the T&E bar examiner on this.

Besides, I have heard that the bar examiner on that section has been removed from the Board of Examiners. That suggests that the bar examiner did something wrong. I mean, if that is true, it really makes the conspiracy theory hard to swallow. Asking the examiner to be fake-punished by being removed from the board as part of a cover-up?

The only countervailing force is that I cannot imagine another explanation.

22. July Bar Taker - November 8, 2007

The Wills Trusts & Estates was the easiest section by far. I can’t believe anybody failed that section.

23. Watching - November 8, 2007

I am an attorney in Florida…and I’m not surprised by these shananagans. Good luck to all of you who failed this last go around in your attempts to retake…and remember…there are always other states.

24. July Bar Taker #2 - November 8, 2007

The Wills Trusts and Estates section was the easiest…I second that…something strange is afoot at the Circle K.

25. Interesting - November 8, 2007

Keep in mind that in South Carolina the legislature gets to pick the judges. It seems that they should allow those who still failed to get a review of their exams and other essay sections.

26. Homeboy - November 8, 2007

This isn’t the worst this Supreme Court has done this year. Read the Rules. It’s all at their Discretion. You only practice law because the 5 Supremes say you can.

27. One of the Priviledged Ones - November 8, 2007

Welcome to South Carolina Folks!!! Indeed, there was pressure to get the chairman’s daughter passed along with a few other clerks that supposedly should have passed. No, I am not one of the 20 that were recently admitted to the bar but u can consider me “in the know.” For those of you who choose to ignore the way things are done in SC, things like these happen all the time. It’s just rare that it is broadcasted to all of the legal community. I would urge all of you concerned folks to break the mold by making your voices heard politically and get involved. Lawyers & Politicians run wild in SC because no one is even concerned enough to question them. Take some action instead of just talking about it and become that whistleblower that SC truly needs.

28. surprise, surprise - November 8, 2007

Dirty, scumbag lawyers…at it again.

29. July Bar Taker #3 - November 8, 2007

July Bar Taker #1 & #2,

I’m sure you noticed during law school that you understood some concepts better than your classmates. Conversely, I’m sure some of your classmates understood some concepts better than you. There were 552 people taking the July Bar in SC. Whether you approach it either statistically or by the amount someone studied for a particular section, there would probably be at least a handful of examinees that thought that any one of the six essay sections was the easiest.

I passed in the original group of examinees. I didn’t think WTE was the easiest section, but I also didn’t think it was the hardest. However, my opinion is only 1 out 552.

Everyone,

I’m sure some of the 20 extra people that passed had connections. I’m also sure some of them didn’t. There are probably even some people with connections in the other 104 that did not pass the July exam. The Supreme Court could have probably handled this change differently, but what is done is done. By the way, the July pass rate in SC is typically between 80 and 85%. With the new additions, this years pass rate went from 77.5 to 81%. That doesn’t sound particularly scandalous to me.

30. Hmm - November 8, 2007

The whole thing seems unsettling. How can they just throw a section out and not allow an appellate process for the other sections that students failed?

As for a reason why they didn’t list the names of those who “later” passed… perhaps they didn’t want it to be public knowledge that a student passed only after the Wills portion was no longer counted. I mean I do see how it could ruin the career prospects of a future estate planning attorney if it was public knowledge that they failed that section.

The whole process is fundamentally unfair. Why Wills, Trusts?

31. Anonymous - November 8, 2007

It’s already public knowledge that they passed only because WTE was excluded. Their names were not on the original list but they still passed the bar, it’s public knowledge for anyone who hired or works with those students because they didn’t pass the bar originally and now they did. As said earlier it would just take a simple cross-check to figure it out. If those students were honestly failed because of some mistake in WTE then they deserve as much recognition as the original group that passed. Why not post their names?

32. Publius - November 8, 2007

Why doesn’t someone put in a FOIA request for the names? Then we could publish it. A nice walk of shame for these deserving candidates. It won’t be the first walk of shame for some of them.

33. anonymous - November 8, 2007

Bar Taker #3…..I understand your point, but collective when you take your response and that of Takers #1 and 2, I reach the conclusion that despite the difficulty or non-difficulty, there was nothing inherently FLAWED with the test…which should be the only reason a section should get thrown out–for example, if the section were actually on California law or something. The fact that it may even be hard, or incredibly hard, is not a reason to ever throw out a section of the bar, and what I gather from all your comments is that it was not flawed or unfair.

34. More Information Please - November 8, 2007

Here’s a screenshot taken from the facebook page:

35. Not Mad, Just Disappointed - November 9, 2007

What’s the difference between these folks and Reggie Jackson?

Ans.: Reggie Jackson did it in October! hi-yo!!

No? Ok, well what do these folks have in common with George W. Bush?

Ans.: Both needed help from the Supreme Court to get a job! hi-yo!!

36. Anonymous Bar Taker - November 9, 2007

Did anybody happen to see the article in The State about this? Link here – http://www.thestate.com/news/story/224562.html.

I really don’t care what Papa Harrison called to talk about…the fact that he called violates an express Supreme Court rule on the subject…the rule forbids any contact between an applicant or an agent of an applicant and anyone associated with the Supreme Court or the Board of Law Examiners in regards to the Bar Exam. Period. He and Judge Barber violated that rule, and they should be disciplined somehow on those grounds alone. The fact that they tried to get the Bar Exam results changed just makes it more ridiculous.

I also don’t care whether the section was hard or easy…or if the bar examiner was a kook who didn’t know what he/she was doing…or if the WTE section was flawed…the fact that these two (at a minimum) made contact expressly forbidden by the Supreme Court is enough that they should be disciplined, and their kids scores thrown out.

As far as this being “politics as usual,” I know this might not change anything, and I know that this has gone on since the beginning of time, but that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t change.

As an individual who took the Bar Exam in July, I did pass on the first go-round of grading, but had I not passed, I’d have had to deal with it and retake it in February.

Maybe there are some people out there (namely those who attempted to get the results changed despite a rule disallowing it) who just aren’t ready for the consequences that life has to offer. Or maybe the section really was flawed and should have been thrown out. They just shouldn’t have gone about it this way.

37. wrong judge - November 9, 2007

it was not judge barber. thats who catherine is working for.

it was judge burch.

38. Anon - November 9, 2007

#36 – It was not Judge Barber, it was Judge Burch. Judge Barber is innocent in all of this and as mad as anyone.

39. Anonymous - November 9, 2007

I agree Anonymous Bar Taker. I studied for 3 months straight pretty much nonstop especially in the last month. If I had failed, I would have lost my job and gone back to studying again and retook it in February. There was nothing wrong with that section and everyone knows it. Anything is fair game on the bar exam and we are told that going in. That section was the easiest section for me and definitely was not inappropriate or unfair. Let’s face it, her career is shot anyway, she’ll always have this following her around. The SC Legal Community is small and we all know each other. You create your reputation early and you keep it for a long time.

40. Anonymous - November 9, 2007

It is absolutely true. He brought all of his power and pressure to bear and they folded like a cheap tent.

41. Anonymous Bar Taker - November 9, 2007

Sorry to Judge Barber…I meant Burch, and I intended no implications to Judge Barber. I apologize.

42. Homeboy - November 9, 2007

To Anonymous # 36 who wrote: “they should be disciplined somehow on those grounds alone.” Who do you think “disciplines” South Carolina attorneys wtih complete authority and absolute discretion? The five Supreme Court justices. And only they can discipline each other. That’s right. Read SCACR 413, 1-34. To be sure the SC BAR knows how absolute and complete their control of the attorney discipline system might be, read IN RE: Dennis Rhoad, Opinion No. 26392, in the November 7, 2007 advance sheets. Even though the Commission on Lawyer Conduct made a recommendation (that’s all they can do) one way, the Supreme Court did somthing else citing In re Long, 346 S.C. 110, 551S.E.2d 586 (2001) (holding the authority to discipline attorneys and the manner in which discipline is given rests entirely with this Court); In re Larkin, 336 S.C. 366, 520 S.E.2d 804 (1999) (noting the Court is not bound by the panel’’s recommendation and may make its own findings of fact and conclusions of law). There is no due process in this system, nor precedent on which to rely. Weldome to the SC BAR, Class of 2007 – the 5 Supremes can do anything they want to and there is nothing you can do about it.

43. anonymous - November 9, 2007

From The State:

“In both cases, Harrison said, he asked if the wills, trusts and estates section of the exam had an unusually high failure rate. A unusually high failure rate may be a sign of a faulty question, or faulty grading, he said.”

How did Rep. Harrison even know to ask about this particular section? Are candidates who fail the exam notified as to which sections they fail?

44. 6-section Bar Passer - November 9, 2007

Anyone from the judicial conference remember Rep. Harrison’s speech?

45. Regina - November 9, 2007

The SC Supreme Court has issued a “statement” on this. Pure doubletalk BS as expected.

46. Regina - November 9, 2007

Statement’s at sccourts.org / whats new.

Its a dirty town in a dirty dirty state, ya’ll.

47. The Supremes Speak « FITSNews For Now - November 9, 2007

[…] – November 9, 2007 – Two days after we broke the story about some alleged monkey business relating to the S.C. Bar Exam, the S.C. Supreme Court has finally responded … well, sort […]

48. South Carolina Supreme Court is sketchy | emplawyernot.com - November 9, 2007

[…] other favorite part about this story is this blog entry right here: FITSNews Exclusive – Bar Exam Flap Engulfs SC Legal Community.  I don’t want to make a habit bashing other blogs, on the off chance that I become widely […]

49. Homeboy - November 11, 2007

In case anyone is interested in who can/should be contacted about the state of the South Carolina Judiciary, below is a list of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees. What about some honest hearings on this situation?????? They do that in Washington on junk like this – in a heart beat.
House Judiciary
Harrison, James H. , Chm. McLeod, Walton J. , 1st V.C. Herbkersman, William G. “Bill” , 2nd V.C.
Allen, Karl B. Bannister, Bruce W. Clemmons, Alan D.
Coleman, Creighton B. Crawford, Kristopher R. “Kris” Delleney, F. Gregory “Greg” , Jr. Hagood, Ben A. , Jr. Haskins, Gloria Arias Jennings, Douglas , Jr. Kelly, R. Keith Rutherford, J. Todd Scott, John L. , Jr. Smith, Fletcher N. , Jr. Smith, G. Murrell , Jr. Smith, Garry R. Smith, James E. , Jr. Stewart, James E. “Jim” , Jr. Talley, Scott F.
Viers, Thad T. Weeks, J. David Whipper, J. Seth
Dennis, Patrick G. , Chief Counsel Goldsmith, Bonnie , Asst. Staff Counsel
SENATE: Judiciary
McConnell, Glenn F. , Chm. Ford, Robert Gregory, Chauncey K.
Jackson, Darrell Martin, Larry A. Rankin, Luke A.
Elliott, Dick Hutto, C. Bradley Anderson, Ralph
Hawkins, John D. Ritchie, James H. “Jim” , Jr. Knotts, John M. “Jake” , Jr. Malloy, Gerald Sheheen, Vincent A. Bryant, Kevin L.
Campsen, George E. “Chip” III Cleary, Raymond E. III Lourie, Joel
Scott, Randy Williams, Kent M. Vaughn, Lewis R.

50. The Bar Exam « Not Very Bright - November 11, 2007

[…] hard last week to make this happen and i’m just relieved that its all over and i can move on! Source. 3:07 pm: no, its not a joke. if the court was going to overturn the scores on their own they would […]

51. marty tennant - November 13, 2007

http://www.impeachjeantoal.com

Sign the petition please.

52. Annonymous - November 17, 2007

This is strike three for Toal ( notice I didn’t say Justice Toal for there is no Justice here) Strike One- years ago she had to explain about mistreatment of employees at the court by her. Strike Two- A hit and run incident with allegations of drinking. . Strike Three this terrible political act that demeans the judiciary. A previous blogger was right though -there is not a thing anyone can do about it.

53. Annonymous - November 17, 2007

In order to properly determine the facts surrounding this controversy an inquiry should be filed with the South Carolina Board of Grievances and Discipline against ALL the justices that comprise the court AND a request that an independant couonsel be appointed to conduct the inquiry AND that this independant counsel, (maybe even someone from out-of -state) be appointed by someone other that a Supreme Court justice.The proceedings should be public and the fourth estate should perform its duty to cover and report these proceedings, wherever they lead. Will that happen? probably not. Anyone can file an application with the board and anyone has the right to publicize the facts concerning the application and the proceedings. A petition, in my view is worthless. If you want to get the facts I think kthat this is the way to go.

54. Updated Timeline « Not Very Bright - November 21, 2007

[…] on their own they would have done it before the results were first announced. it took some effort. Source.The comments are later deleted, but not before the page is screen captured and […]

55. Annon - December 10, 2007

Here are the names of the “new” passers per the “consolidated list on the SC Courts Website:

1, Samantha Sarratt Adiar
2, Rachael Anne Akers
3, Evelyn Belicia Ayers
4, Elizabeth Anne Baker
5, Shaheena Ramona Bennett
6. Kendall Renee Burch
7, Sherod Hampton Eadon, III
8, Kristen B. Fehsenfeld
9, Matthew Clilne Halverstadt
10, Samia H. Hanafi
11, Cathrine Salley Harrison
12, Ittris J. Jenkins
13, Renee Sara Kart
14, Cooper Clayton Lynn
15, Rosalind Latrice Sellers
16, Stephen Fulton Shaw
17, Melissa Diane Spivey
18, David Edward Wells
19, Warren Westbrook Wills
20, Courtney Dione Wingate


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