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FITSNews Exclusive – S.C. Bar Exam Flap Continues November 8, 2007

Posted by fitsnews in SC Politics.
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ALLEGATIONS FLY AS S.C. SUPREME COURT FINDS ITSELF ON DEFENSIVE

FITSNews – November 8, 2007 – It turns out our exclusive story yesterday about the flap between the S.C. Bar Association and the S.C. Supreme Court over the Court’s decision to toss out an entire section of the bar exam has taken on a life of its own. Seriously, it’s like we woke up one morning to discover our Chia Pet had swallowed us.

Anyway, sources are telling FITSNews that the Court’s rationale for discarding the results is part of an effort by Chief Justice Jean Toal to upwardly adjust the “passing percentage” of students from the Charleston School of Law.

“The Chief Justice has a vested interest in propping up the percentages from Charleston,” said a source who spoke with FITSNews on the condition of anonymity. “Also one Charleston graduate who passed the bar exam because of this decision is the daughter of a powerful circuit court judge.”

Our source declined to identify the name of the judge, and the Supreme Court only provides student numbers to identify those individuals who failed the exam initially, but then passed when the Court decided to throw out the Wills, Trusts and Estates section of the test earlier this week.

Judge Alex Sanders, Chairman of the Charleston Law School’s Board of Directors, flatly disputed the allegation that the percentage of Charleston students passing the exam had been artificially “propped up” by the Supreme Court’s decision.

“Absolutely untrue,” Judge Sanders told FITSNews. “We have heard that some people who graduated from the school passed the bar exam as a result of this decision, but we don’t know who they are.”

Sanders added that any change made by the Court would apply to all students, no matter where they attended law school.

“It might benefit our percentage of passing students, but it would also benefit the passing percentages of every other school,” he said.

Another theory posed by numerous sources centers around House Judiciary Chairman Jim Harrison, whose daughter, Catherine Harrison, passed the exam under the revised results.

On the popular social networking site Facebook, Catherine Harrison posted comments earlier this week that many believe hinted at improper influence exerted by her father.

“If the court was going to overturn the scores on their own they would have done it before the results were first announced,” Catherine Harrison wrote on a friend’s Facebook page. “(Changing them) took some effort.”

Chairman Harrison says his daughter’s comments have been misinterpreted.

“I have spoken with my daughter about this and her comments have clearly been misconstrued,” Harrison told FITSNews. “She was referring to the effort made by her fellow students, not any effort made by me.”

“I don’t know how powerful people think I am,” Harrison added, “but I don’t have the kind of pull you need to get an entire section of the bar exam thrown out, and even if I did I would never use my influence in a situation involving my own daughter.”

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Comments»

1. Colby - November 8, 2007

Wow. They are really all going to try to defend this with a straight face. This is complete backroom BS. The Harrison’s and who knows who else clearly violated the “no contact” rule to get this started. There is simply no explanation for this happening AFTER the results are announced other than improper influence. Someone needs to be held accountable.

2. Silence Dogood - November 8, 2007

‘“I have spoken with my daughter about this and her comments have clearly been misconstrued,” Harrison told FITSNews. “She was referring to the effort made by her fellow students, not any effort made by me.”’

Oh…so she and/or her fellow students violated the most recent explicit order by the Supreme Court NOT allowing any appeal or contact whatsoever and that is why they Supreme Court decided to admit them??? I have no idea if Rep. Harrison had anything at all to do with this, but what a whopper one would have to believe to think this was just run of the mill thing that required no explanation for this to happen AFTER the results were posted. FITS, ask the Supreme Court if other bar applicants should be crossing their fingers that some more sections get thrown out mysteriously?

3. Anonymous - November 8, 2007

I don’t even remember the Wills, Trusts, and Estates section. It certainly wasn’t a section of concern for me or anyone else I’ve talked to. I guess that’s why only 20 extra people passed the exam after having the entire section thrown out. It must have been the “common denominator” for the select few. “Who you know and who you blow” gets you everywhere in this field.

4. anon - November 8, 2007

What interest has Jean Toal got in seeing the pass rate go up at CSOL? She vehemently opposed the school’s creation and has been tepid at best in her support of the school since it opened. Not saying it’s not possible, but it’s not the obvious answer. The safe money says it has a lot more to do with who the students who failed are, rather than where they went to school.

5. Annon - November 8, 2007

The only section that I heard people really hehawing about after the bar was the Insurance section.

Has anyone else noticed that the CSOL has not posted its pass rate at all?

6. anony1 - November 8, 2007

I agree anon. i heard 5 were from csol so that leaves the majority from usc or out of state.

we will all find out who the 20 were on november 13 and then we can analyze their connections and or school.

7. Billy Chappel - November 8, 2007

I guess common sense is in short supply with you people. Does anyone think the Justice Toal would risk this kind of flap to help a few people? I am not a big fan of hers but she is anything but stupid. With all the public relations problems she has had over the last two years do you think she would risk this as well?

8. Wrong Again Will - November 8, 2007

Will, cant say that I am surprised you are spinning this story the way you are seeing as how you are such a big USC person. Additionally I would concur with Anon, as to the interest of the Chief Justice, and if you had done your homework you would know that. Additionally if you talk to anyone with knowledge that doesnt attend USC law you might find out that 11 of the 20 students were from USC and only 9 were from CSOL, so who really benefits there?

9. anon - November 8, 2007

Silence makes a good point up there…either way, somebody did a no-no…

10. FITSNews - November 8, 2007

“Wrong Again Will,”

We don’t have a dog in this fight, nor did we try to spin this story one way or the other.

Sure, our Chia Pet reference is drawing a lot of fire (the Goldfish lobby is highly pissed, for example), but other that we tried to play it fair and square.

Sorry if you believe we fell short of that objective. Also, we don’t know how the 11 of 20 versus 9 of 20 affect those schools percentages because the Bar Association won’t give out the info.

-FITSNews

11. Natasha - November 8, 2007

Wrong Again Will,

Regardless of how you feel Will is covering this story, there is still a HUGE issue at hand: an entire portion of the bar was removed from the exam, after they were graded, to allow 20 additional individuals to pass the bar…

Doesn’t this smell fishy or do you have anosmia?

I’d like to know if there is any sort of precedent for this type of thing?

12. ESP - November 8, 2007

Wrong again Will,

Even if that happens to be the case, keep in mind percentage rates. An 11 candidate increase in relation to the several hundred applicants from USC would change the Pass/Fail rate much less drastically than the increase of 9 candidates from CSOL’s much smaller applicant pool.

13. Anonymous - November 8, 2007

Wrong Again Will – November 8, 2007
Will, cant say that I am surprised you are spinning this story…..

That you Ms. Harrison?

14. Anon - November 8, 2007

Who cares?

As someone who failed the bar before (in SC), and someone who passed this time (before they threw out a section) I don’t.

You would think, of all the people who are interested in this story it would be me, but I’m not because it ain’t that big of a deal.

Someone call oliver stone, maybe he will film another conspiracy theory . . .

15. anon - November 8, 2007

Wrong Again Will,

Everyone knows Sic Willie has hooked up w/ Molly, the Chairman’s younger daughter, who was like 20 and he was like 30 when it happened.

That is the conspiracy. They hooked up after a USC football game and again at Rick Quinn’s bar where she is served underage drinks.

16. Newspaper Hack - November 8, 2007

@ 15

What – you’re saying 20-year-old college students aren’t actively looking for guys in their early 30s to give them “the life to which they are accustomed?” After all, Daddy’s money only goes so far, and a girl’s got to have a plan.

17. Ron Burgandy? - November 8, 2007

Let in Catherine and the judge’s daughter. Her father got her into law school, got her a clerkship, and now has gotten her a free pass on the bar. Why should the status quo change? I actually feel sorry for her because her father can’t buy her respect or friends – of which, she is in low supply.

18. FITSNews - November 8, 2007

Commenter #15,

First of all drinks aren’t underage, people are.

Second, you’ve got bad information there. Sic’s success with the ladies is indeed legendary, but that legend is largely reserved for the space between his ears.

Third, thanks for like making like this comment page like read like an episode of like The Hills.

Like.

-FITSNews

19. Yahoo - November 8, 2007

Jean Toal was drunk.

20. Come on - November 8, 2007

Billy Chapel, good point about the Chief Justice – I mean based on your logic if she got caught once for a hit and run/DUI then she would never, ever, never, ever, again…oh wait…never mind your point becomes kind of lost when you look at it that way.

21. Anon - November 8, 2007

CSOL is much better than USC Law. USC Law is just scared!

22. Not Sure Here - November 8, 2007

I’m not sure what happened here but I would put a lot more faith in Justice Toal than Sic Willie any day of the week.

23. What? - November 8, 2007

Come on,

Its like you think Toal’s hit runs were premeditated. That’s not exactly the same thing here.

24. Yahoo - November 8, 2007

Pay ttention. Toal was drunk.

Damn, I hate having to repeat myself.

25. Skeptic - November 8, 2007

The reason for tossing the section should not be a secret. I am a firm believer that the court’s internal deliberations should remain secret, but only because those deliberations result in a written opinion. Those opinions are important for transparency and for maintain the public’s trust in the judiciary. We should expect no less in this situation.

If T&E was thrown out because the question was bad, then the Sup. Ct. should say so. If the section was thrown out because of some impropriety on the part of the grader, then the Sup. Ct. should say so. As it is, the Court’s silence only has one effect: to fuel speculation that this is a case of the good ol’ boy network run amok.

This discussion shouldn’t devolve into a USC vs. CSOL debate. This is about ensuring a fair, open process when it comes to who gets to be a part of the profession and why. Arbitrariness is not a good method of choosing who gets to be a lawyer.

26. realist - November 8, 2007

The hit & runs weren’t premeditated, but the driving drunk was.

27. Harold Crick - November 8, 2007

“There is simply no explanation for this happening AFTER the results are announced other than improper influence.”

Up until this comment, I have been able to resist the temptation to respond to some of the absurd comments I have seen throughtout the day on this board. I can only hope that those who take such a firm stance in accusing our state and our Supreme Court of some conspiracy are not lawyers, at least in South Carolina. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for questioning the government. I actually have somewhat of an anarchist background, but questioning is much different than asserting that there is no other explanation. I imagine that such a person who can find no such other explanation certainly lacks much imagination, or dare I say ANY (sorry I’m not the type of person who would ever use all caps, but I couldn’t help it) imagination. I don’t know what happened to cause this section to get revoked, but neither do many of you. Maybe the only difference between us is that I’m naive enough to refuse to assume the worst, or maybe the idea of a government conspiracy doesn’t get me a hard on quite like it used to. I can still use my imagination though, and hypothetically, a million weird things could have happened to cause this section to be revoked- for example, who knows, maybe the T&E bar examiner noticed that after his/her list of those who failed was submitted to the Court (and after the results had been announced), this examiner subsequently realized that one more person failed his/her section- in other words he/she found a test he/she had misplaced. In such a case the Court would be faced with the Scylla (sp?) of having just one passing this section without merit while others who performed equally failed, and the Charbidys (sp?) of having to inform that one person that they failed the bar. Perhaps the best way out in such a situation would be to doubt the bar examiner’s competence to administer and grade the test in the first place and allow everyone to pass. Such a conclusion would be reasonable under those circumstances. Or maybe it’s possible that the Court belived that a section testing how well a person can articulate in a blue book under unsimulated circumstances whether or not the annuity of a father of 3 sons passes to the father’s favorite son by will or pre probate was irrelevant to how well the person could practice law. I’m not saying anyone is wrong on their conspiracy theories, but don’t rule out all other possibilities. Thank god for many of the mechanisms in the law that combat such an ignorant method of thinking.

28. Dick Diver - November 8, 2007

The name Billy Chappell real or from “For Love of the Game”?

29. Blah Blah - November 8, 2007

Theories abound…

Word out of a recent gathering of S.C. attorneys and judges is that several incoming judicial clerks had failed the bar exam and the judges WERE NOT HAPPY.

I know that Ms. Harrison is clerking for a circuit court judge, so perhaps the “we” she refers to in her comments are the several judicial clerks who failed and the respective judges. Perhaps they are the ones who exerted pressure. Perhaps they are the crack squad of savvy motivated personnel that pulled off this most intriguing of heists. A heist of the dignity and integrity of the South Carolina Bar and Judiciary.

Bottom line….it’s a sad day…week…month for the Legal Community of South Carolina. Not only has the integrity of the entire process been called into question, but in one week, 20 individuals who failed the bar exam will be sworn in as attorneys. That, my friends, is scary indeed. Not really, but…..

In all seriousness, I do not think I am any more qualified to practice law having passed the bar exam, but I do think there is a practical reason for having a bar exam and an even more practical reason for having people pass and people fail….unless you are privileged, or have a judicial clerkship.

Seriously…..Trust and Estates? This is what they chose to hang their hats on? In my opinion, the T&E section was just like any other section on the bar. Hell, some parts are fair, some parts are unfair. I thought the Sales question in the UCC section was unfair…..and I know people who failed the UCC section and ultimately failed the exam. They’ll be taking the exam again in February, I respect those people.

The sad thing in all this is that Ms. Harrison is obviously pleased with the result, and truly has no idea of the impact of this decision. If she had any integrity at all, she would accept the fact that SHE FAILED the Bar Exam and do as numbers of others have done before her…..take the bar exam again in February. Perhaps if she had put the same “effort” into studying for the T&E section (and the other section that she failed), as she did in getting the T&E section thrown out (allegedly), MAYBE she would have passed the bar.

Looking forward, if you are a perspective bar applicant, I say lock in a judicial clerkship, roll the dice and play a lot of golf in the months of May, June and July………..hey, you never know……

30. Well played USC Law - November 9, 2007

I love the way that CSOL took all of USC’s tenured professors and now everyone is screaming about passage rates. At the end of the day if anyone knows anything about the BAR from this last year and the true number of applicants each school had that 20 people makes that big of a difference. The numbers were not that far off and when you are talking about only a couple of hundred people then 11 or 9 people can drasticly change a percentage when something in the 60 s or 70s makes a huge difference in the overall result, or in USC’s case something in the low 80s to high 80s will mean. I guess USC would love to portray it as a CSOL conspiracy considering they are the ones trying to reply with this shaddy info. because they have nothing left to loose, since their good professors are gone. This story can be spun anyway you want, but at the end of the day no one is going to ask questions about how you passed the BAR because the big thing is that you did pass.

31. Reader - November 9, 2007

First, the CSOL pass rate will be about 75% or so. Until the Court releases the names of the passers at the swearing in ceremony next week it is impossible to know for sure.

Second, of all the theories floating around, the one about this being an effort to increase the numbers for the CSOL is the most insane. (1) USC did not graduate that many more people than the CSOL and this won’t change the difference in pass rates by more than a percentage point or so at best. (2) Justice Toal does not support the CSOL. (3) It does not explain why the decision was made after the results were released.

The explanation about Catherine Harrison is just silly. Her dad is now suggesting that her comments were a reference to a movement by test takers in general?! What effort by test takers is Rep. Harrison talking about? Not only have I not heard anything about any clammoring by test takers to throw out the TE section of the bar exam, I cannot imagine what basis there would be for such a call.

32. Reader - November 9, 2007

Actually, I think I miscalculated. The overall pass rate will be about 70% probably including both the full time and part time program. Until the Court reveals the new passers, a final tally cannot be made.

33. Come on - November 9, 2007

What?,

That would be a good point, minus that fact that hits are rarely premeditated, but ‘runs’ afterward usually tend to be. Or, of course if on the other hand you are so drunk you don’t know you hit or ran, well, that might just speak to one’s judgment also. My goal wasn’t to impugn the Chief Justices honor. I am sure she is a wondeful person – it was more so to point out hat lapses in judgment aren’t beyond anyone’s flaws even some one in a high position. I have no idea who ultimately decided, or in this case manipulates, bar exam scores so I don’t know if this was something that involved her or not. Just because some one has final say so over something doesn’t always mean they use that authority and many and underling has gummed up the works in his or her bosses name (or father’s???). Looking back at your comment, I guess just two hit and runs is actually a pretty honorable record for the average public offical these days.

34. Reader - November 9, 2007

.

35. Anon - November 9, 2007

The number of test takers from USC and the CSOL was not all that different. Certainly, the numbers were not so lopsided that the difference in pass rates will widen or close more than about one percent based on the new passers.

36. Blossom S. Bridges - November 9, 2007

Two things:

They’re lawyers.

Get over it.

37. R. O'Donnell - November 9, 2007

I hear that the grade change was actually the result of a collaboration between Bush, Cheney, Rove and the Jews.

38. Blah Blah - November 9, 2007

Censorship?

39. Anonymous - November 9, 2007

The whole thing about “helping raise the Charleston School of Law passage rate” is complete BS. That is probably a scapegoat that Harrison is using to take the attention off of himself. From what I have found, the change helped more USC that Charleston students pass.

Just remember, SC is one of the few states that allows legislators to pick judges. Almost every other state in the country has elections for judges… not SC though.

40. Anonymous - November 9, 2007

People, keep your eye on the ball. CSOL is not an issue. That is a scapegoat. The Supreme Court is using that as a scapegoat to hide their true reasons.

Justice Toal is not fond of CSOL and is taking this opportunity to use CSOL as an excuse for covering up the court’s true reasons for the decision and bash CSOL as usual at the same time.

Improper use of authority is the issue here. Someone needs to be held accountable for this clear violation of the rules.

41. 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.

42. Anonymous - November 9, 2007

And by the way… Justice Toal has absolutely NO vested interest in CSOL’s bar passage rate. If she were so accommodating to CSOL, then she would have allowed them to take the Bar regardless of the accreditation holdup issues that went on last year. She firmly stood against this then and there is no reason she would be for CSOL now. She definitely has NO vested interest in the school. That is absurd.

43. Anon - November 9, 2007

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

44. Anonymous Bar Taker - November 9, 2007

I retract the portion of my previous statement that implicated Judge Barber, and apologize for any ill notions about him. The judge in the story was Judge Burch.

45. Yadda Yadda Yadda - November 9, 2007

From the state, “…learned she had failed, she began checking with friends who had taken the exam. She found a large number had problems with the test.”

Yeah….right….about 124 large had a problem with the test, and THAT’S WHY THEY FAILED. It happens every year….PEOPLE FAIL. There was nothing unfair about the T&E section. And apparently there was nothing inherently wrong, or unfair, with the number of people who failed the T&E section, otherwise, our Supreme Court would have made concessions PRIOR to releasing the results on Oct. 26th. Surely, they aren’t that short-sighted. Are they?

Honestly, is it really surprising for this to happen in South Carolina where the Political and Legal community is so small and interwoven? Not in my opinion.

I just wonder if Rep. Harrison would go to bat for a group of concerned students who failed the bar if his daughter was not among them.

Quite frankly, I think the entire bar exam is unfair, but its a necessary evil that every attorney must take and pass in order to practice law……well, almost every attorney.

46. Yadda Yadda Yadda - November 9, 2007

To Anon:

How mad is Judge Barber? Harrison is his clerk and she benefited from the decision. Just curious.

47. concerned member of the Bar - November 9, 2007

My son took and failed the July, 2007, Bar Exam. He was close, and we were disappointed. But, having read the recent Supreme Court Order that there would be no appeal and re-grading of Bar Exams, his failure was something we accepted. He will just have to take the Bar Exam again in February. That’s the way it goes.

When I found out that 20 of those who failed the Bar Exam have now passed it, after the WTE section was thrown out, I was surprised and disappointed, but for a different reason. My son passed the WTE section, but still failed the Bar Exam. Is that the way it goes?

When is a failing grade not a failing grade? How, why, and who made the decision to throw out a section of the Bar Exam, enabling 20 who failed, to pass? What does that say about the Bar Examiners who wrote and graded the exam? Do they even matter?

If the scores of a few applicants can be changed just like that, I believe all who failed deserve the benefit of having their exams re-graded. But, even if my son’s Bar Exam were re-graded, allowing him to pass, would that make me happy? I don’t think so. I’d rather have my son fail the Bar Exam than pass it because someone changed the rules. My son will just have to do better in February. That’s the way it should go.

When does a Court Order not mean what it says? Are Court Orders to be followed by everyone or not? If Court Orders do not appy equally to everyone, who decides who follows them and who doesn’t? What are the consequences of non-compliance?

A full, meaningful, and truthful explanation should be required by the Bar.

48. Anonymous - November 9, 2007

I just don’t think it is fair that the Wills portion was merely thrown out – not regraded, but thrown out. I would like to know if it was even the most highly failed essay section. Perhaps more people failed, say, Insurance than Wills.

The only way to make this fair would be for the Supreme Court to allow all of those who failed the July exam to be able to appeal to have their essays regraded. ALL of the essays – not just the one that Mr. Harrison’s daughter failed.

49. concerned member of the Bar - November 9, 2007

My son took and failed the July, 2007, Bar Exam. He was close, and we were disappointed. But, having read the recent Supreme Court Order that there would be no appeal and re-grading of Bar Exams, his failure was something we accepted. He will just have to take the Bar Exam again in February. That’s the way it goes.

When I found out that 20 of those who failed the Bar Exam have now passed it, after the WTE section was thrown out, I was surprised and disappointed, but for a different reason. My son passed the WTE section, but still failed the Bar Exam. Is that the way it goes?

When is a failing grade not a failing grade? How, why, and who made the decision to throw out a section of the Bar Exam, enabling 20 who failed, to pass? What does that say about the Bar Examiners who wrote and graded the exam? Do they even matter?

If the scores of a few applicants can be changed just like that, I believe all who failed deserve the benefit of having their exams re-graded. But, even if my son’s Bar Exam were re-graded, allowing him to pass, would that make me happy? I don’t think so. I’d rather have my son fail the Bar Exam than pass it because someone changed the rules. My son will just have to do better in February. That’s the way it should go.

When does a Court Order not mean what it says? Are Court Orders to be followed by everyone or not? If Court Orders do not appy equally to everyone, who decides who follows them and who doesn’t? What are the consequences of non-compliance?

A full, meaningful, and truthful explanation should be required by the Bar.

50. Anonymous - November 9, 2007

“In our opinion, the internal review process conducted by the Board is more than sufficient to insure that any error in grading is determined before the examination results are released. Therefore, we have decided to delete the current provisions allowing for review and re-grading after the results are released, bringing this jurisdiction in line with the overwhelming majority of other jurisdictions.”

This is the Supreme Court’s amended stance on regrading of Bar Exam essays as of the July 2007 Bar Examination.

My question is this. If the “process used by the Board is more than sufficient to insure that any error in grading is determined before the examination results are released”, then why did this happen? Why was an “error” on the Wills, Trusts section not fixed BEFORE the results were released and why did this “error” have to be “fixed” AFTER the scores were released?

The SC Supreme Court has started a very slippery slope here because now they should have to make sure there were no other essays that involved “errors”, regardless of whether or not a judge’s son or a legislator’s daughter failed due to those essays.

This is a violation of due process. Perhaps the national media should be alerted to this constitutional issue.

51. 6-section Bar Passer - November 9, 2007

From Sccourts.org:

“On October 31, 2007, a scoring error reported by the examiner of the Wills, Trusts, and Estates Section, was communicated to the Clerk of Court.

On November 1, 2007, the full Court was advised of the examiner’s communication and determined that owing to this error the results of the affected section would not be considered. This action, which was posted on this website on November 2, 2007, resulted in twenty additional examinees receiving overall passing scores.”

52. Future Member of the Bar - November 9, 2007

Well said “Concerned Member.” It truly is a shame that things have turned out this way.

Just know this, when your son does re-take and pass the bar in February, he, and your entire family, can take pride in the fact that he did it the right way…..that he passed the Bar Exam on his own merits. That is something Ms. Harrison and the 19 others will never experience.

Best of luck to him.

53. Eric Russell - November 9, 2007

Mental Note: If I ever need an attorney in SC make sure they did not pass the bar on a technicality.

54. Anon - November 9, 2007

The Supreme Court now has a statement on its website saying that the decision to throw out the TE section was because of a scoring error reported by the TE bar examiner. That seems really, really hard to believe. What would have prompted the TE bar examiner to recognize an error only a week after the results were posted? No one was allowed to challenge the results, so why would he ever look back at his scoring after handing in the results?

55. Yolk - November 9, 2007

Why throw out the WTE section? Clearly Ms. Harrison failed another section of the bar, why not toss that section out? How did she know which of her fellow bar applicants to call about failing that section if all that is posted is the numbers of those who fail, and not which sections they’ve failed? Is it coincidence that more than half of the 20 who now have passed are clerks for judges in this state? Who is Kaiser Soze?

56. 6-section Bar Passer - November 9, 2007

I heard that Rep. Harrison is already prepping his speech for the 2008 Judicial Conference. Next year he’s going to discuss the flexibility of Rule 402 while proudly displaying a picture of his daughter from next week’s induction ceremony.

All attendees from this year’s judicial conference will understand this better than most.

57. i'm concerned, too - November 9, 2007

“Concerned member of the Bar,” I could not agree with you more. I want an honest and thorough explanation for this. I had the good fortune of coming to South Carolina from out of state, attending law school here, and passing the July bar exam. Reading the paper today really dampened my enthusiasm about practicing law here. Rumors have been going around all week about Justice Toal bumping up Charleston’s passage rate and Catherine Harrison’s dad getting a section dropped by simply picking up the phone, but I kept telling people to quit gossiping and brushed it all off as conspiracy theories. But now, it seems undeniable that some people in this state don’t have to put forth the same amount of effort as the rest of us to become attorneys.

Harold Crick, while I appreciate your effort to give these people the benefit of the doubt, I think you’re really reaching. I’ll admit that a person could become an excellent and successful attorney without ever understanding things like probate law, DRR, or all those nonsensical intestacy statutes, but that is not the point. The point is that we all had to study it and develop a basic, competent understanding. It’s been on the exam for years and years. I worked throughout law school and this summer to learn it, and if I hadn’t learned it well enough, I’d be studying to take it in February like everybody else.

Also, EVEN IF the T&E section were deemed unfair or unnecessary, I am confident that in the absence of political favors or influence, something this dramatic wouldn’t happen within a week. I say this because a friend of mine failed the SC bar last year and attempted to have her test re-graded and inquired about how she might appeal her score. She was told there was no appeals process, and according to her it took over a month to get a straight answer on the matter. It just so happens that she is not from South Carolina, nor did she attend law school here.

I just checked the bar exam page again to find out that the board’s explanation for this mess is a “scoring error.” I want to believe it, but I cannot help but wonder who exactly decided there was an “error,” or what that error was. I feel that we deserve a more detailed explanation. And by “we,” I do not just mean those of us privileged enough to even take the SC bar exam this year. I mean the public. Think about how many people not only will need an attorney at some point in their lives, but also will be affected by the law. People in my class will go on to become lawyers, judges, and legislators. And, not to mention, the people who will be handling your will, trust or estate.
In law school, one thing I remember learning is that the mere appearance of impropriety is all that it takes to diminish your credibility. I hope that my fellow attorneys will remember this and expect more from the men and women who sit on our courts and serve on the board of law examiners. If we don’t get a further explanation, I’ll be disappointed.

58. The Names - November 9, 2007

Now, YOU can find out their affiliations and where they are working, and draw your own conclusions.

List of 20:

1. Samantha Sarratt Adair
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 Cline Halverstadt
10. Samia H. Hanafi
11. Catherine Salley Harrison
12. Ittris J. Jenkins
13. Renee Sara Kart
14. Cooper Clanton Lynn
15. Rosalind Latrice Sellers
16. Stephen Fulton Shaw
17. Fred Brian Spivey
18. David Edward Wells
19. Warren Westbrook Wills
20. Courtney Dione Wingate

59. Anon - November 9, 2007

Justice Toal:

1. Just what was the alleged scoring error that required throwing out the entire section?
2. How was it discovered?

Answer those two questions in a clear, straightforward manner, and I promise that I’ll drop my questions about the fairness of the system.

60. anonymous - November 9, 2007

If that statement on the SC Courts website is accurate, why did Jim Harrison and Paul Burch admit to contacting people about the Bar Exam and the results? Why did Catherine Harrison say it took a lot of effort to make it happen on her facebook page?

If there was an error in the grading of the Wills section, why wasn’t Chief Bar Examiner George Hearn contacted about it?

61. scwhistler - November 9, 2007

If at first you don’t succeed, lower the standard. … Assuming they had an ounce of self-respect, you’d think any student who passed this way would want to take the exam again.

62. Anon - November 9, 2007

Based on the story in the State newspaper, I can’t fault Judge Burch’s actions. This is the first year there is no review of a failing grade, and all he did was ask whether there was any appeal. There is nothing wrong with that if it stopped there. However, Rep. Harrison’s conduct was clearly improper. He unambiguously contacted the Court and the Board of Examiners for the purpose of challenging the results.

I also question the story that Catherine Harrison was able to discern some sort of statistical trend in which sections of the exam resulted in a disproportionate number of failures. There were only about 30 USC students who failed (before the section was dropped). Even if the T&E examiner failed 50% of the test takers, that would only have been an issue for 15 of the USC failers. Come on. Does anyone really believe that Catherine sleuthed around enough to get the information on those exact people and build a case for a disproportionate failure rate based on it?

63. name - November 10, 2007

It’s actually worse than that…in The State today, it says that only 2 of the 20 who benefited from this fiasco were USC May grads…

64. Mr. Bad Example - November 10, 2007

Perspective often helps in these matters. I believe the lengths to which a parent will go to help a child might often include dubious, but meaningless bad judgment calls. When reviewing a decision, the Supreme Court sometimes refers to “harmless error”. If a father called and asked “Is there anything that can be done” he might be excused, particularly if he sighed and said something like ” I had to ask, that’s my child” and left things at that. Similarly, a circuit judge develops a strong bond with a law clerk. These are people who spend the day observing the same parade of humanity. They frequently travel the state in the same car, eat many meals a week together, etc. A judge might well ask if there was anything that could be done.

YES, I know there was a specific policy against it, but just asking doesn’t cost anything, as they say. In the bad old days, judges’ clerks lost their jobs when they learned they had failed the Bar.

There is a story that, in the mid-to late eighties, a man called his old buddy, his child’s godfather, to ask what could be done about that same child’s failure to pass the Bar. It is unlikely the father knew his buddy would become a Supreme Court Justice when he decided to have him stand up at his child’s baptism, but the subsequent “discussion” led to the creation of an appeals process. The idea was to avoid giving the wrong impression.

The statement by the Court only serves to give more and more wrong impressions, as seen by the comments above- wrong as in mistaken, and wrong as in somebody did wrong. Whether the CSOL has any importance in this is pretty much secondary. What actually happened with those test results- how the error took so long to show up, whether or not it was “disproportionate”, what legitimate sounding reason the court can claim- Those are the things the statement should have explained and those are the things someone should continue to worry about.

Plenty of people have taken the Bar exam twice. They lead happy productive lives, even if they had to spend a year catching up with classmates. Many of their friends and peers have forgotten, if they ever knew. Somehow I doubt the 20 newly approved lawyers will find it easy to live past this episode. And for several of them, that is a distinction and notoriety they neither sought nor deserve.

That appeals process came about, not because the Court wanted it, but because of an outcry. The assorted other tales of bar admissions intrigue people recounted over drinks this week are generally remembered because someone hollered. If the inquiry doesn’t go further, this one will be added to the repertoire. All of us, citizens, lawyers, parents, deserve better.

65. Stupid - November 10, 2007

Let me set the entire story straight so all can understand what has happened. George Hearn is the top dog in the bar examination process. He is also a member of the law firm of Hearn, Brittain and Martin. Brittain’s son is the clerk for Judge Burch, and passed the exam on the first go round. However, the junior Brittain is politely considered to not be the smartest turnip in the bucket. In fact, he failed some classes in law school but did not flunk out. It was apparent the Hearn was not going to fail his partner’s son on the exam. But then again, Judge Birch had a hard pill to swallow when his clerk passed, who lacks some basic skills, but his daughter did not. It seems obvious to me that Burch probably had some words of wisdom to share with Hearn, and when Harrison got involved the writing was on the wall. You can say or believe what you want, but as for me, “its who you know”.

66. Anonymous - November 11, 2007

Dear Poster 65:

When I took the bar, there were a number of “dumb turnips” who passed that year. Likewise, there were a number of “connected” people who failed despite their connections. Last year, the daughter of Mr. Hearn’s OTHER law partner failed. Hearn didn’t step in. Your conspiracy theory is intriguing, but based on passers and failers of past bar exams that had Hearn at the helm, I just don’t think he was a part of this. The five members of the supreme court made the decision to pass these 20 additional people, not the bar examiners themselves.

67. anonymous2 - November 12, 2007

My question is – wasnt the bar exam anonymous? If so then how would they know how many CSOL people would be affected by giving them a pass on the Wills exam?
But they did know which judges family this would affect.

68. Preston Brittain - November 13, 2007

In re “Stupid”:
I find your entry (#65) to be, among many things, just plain wrong. As one of the other “turnips in the bucket” I have a very keen understanding of the IQ’s of all the “turnips”. (Just in case you don’t understand, I’m saying that I’m his brother). He’s smart as whip…play jeopardy with him. As to his grades, well, application and intellegence are two different things. He passed the bar exam because he chose to apply himself. Additionally, I find it repulsive that a human would post such a thing about a co-student. I also find it cowardly. If you’d like to talk about it further email me and we’ll exchange numbers. Your post was offensive and hurtful, and I’m certain it could have been avoided if you knew facts (or had the decency to try to obtain them). And lastly, that you could accuse George Hearn of impropreity just willy-nilly is beyond me. He’s earned a reputation that I, and many others, aspire to. Feel free to send me an email.

69. Preston Brittain - November 13, 2007
70. Drew Langway - November 13, 2007

And I’m the other brother that would love to meet the coward “anonymous #65” for a drink “to discuss” this further. Any time any place. I’ll even pay.

71. Drew Langway - November 13, 2007
72. anon - November 13, 2007

File ethical violation complaints regarding Rule 402(i)(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. This provision does not prohibit an applicant from seeking verification of the MBE score as permitted by (6) above.”
to:
Henry B. Richardson, Jr.
South Carolina Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline
P.O. Box 11330
Columbia, SC 29211
Phone: (803) 734-2038
Fax: N/A
Filing Method: Submit a detailed letter
Anonymity: Yes

73. anon - November 13, 2007

I will file ethical violation complaints against Rep. James H. Harrison, J.D, Catherine S. Harrison, J.D., “Esquire,” Judge Paul M. Burch, and Kendall R. Burch, J.D., “Esquire.” Thanks for the info.

74. marty tennant - November 13, 2007

sign the petition please

http://www.impeachjeantoal.com


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