SCOTUS Turns A Blind Eye to Law Student’s Plight

Apr 10, 2017 | Litigation

Remember the logic portion of the LSAT? It included logic games, most of which — as every LSAT Prep company will tell you — need to be resolved using diagramming techniques. In other words, in order to solve the problem, you need to be able to draw pictures and arrows and boxes, and arrange the objects in the problem in a certain way. Such visual orientation is near-impossible for a person who is unable to visualize, i.e., who is blind.  This testing requirement thus gives the visually able an unfair advantage over blind test-takers.

Koert Wehberg, a blind staff attorney for Disability Rights Pennsylvania, noted:

When I started studying for the LSAT, I found it astonishing that the test directions, as I recall, literally tell you that it would help you to draw a diagram to help with the logic games portion of the exam. I wondered how I was supposed to do that. I ended up submitting an addendum to my law school applications explaining my disability and why I did not do well on that part of the test.

Does it strike you as unfair that a blind student is expected to perform these logic games on par with his visually-abled peers? Is it more than unfair, perhaps rising to the level of discrimination?

Enter Angelo Binno and Richard Bernstein. The former is a blind Michigan student who was rejected from several law schools after receiving a low LSAT score. The latter is the only blind Justice ever to serve on the Michigan Supreme Court. Binno asked Bernstein to be his lawyer in a case against the American Bar Association (ABA), whose ABA Standard 503 requires law schools use a “valid and reliable admission test” if they are using a test other than the LSAT. To wit, the LSAT is the only examination that has the ABA’s stamp of approval. The lawsuit alleged that Standard 503 pressures law schools to rely exclusively on LSAT scores, out of fear of losing accreditation.

In their amicus brief, State Attorneys General from Michigan and Ohio stated:

[B]lind and visually impaired residents in every State are currently inhibited from obtaining a legal education, and the ABA has the power to remedy that problem. . . . It is important to give talented individuals access to a legal education. . . . Yet the ABA is choosing instead to close the doors to legal education for the blind.

The ABA argued — and all courts up through, and including, the Sixth Circuit agreed — that it cannot be held liable for any alleged discrimination because it neither requires, nor controls the content of, the LSAT. On March 27, 2017, the Supreme Court of the United States denied certiorari.

So the discrimination continues. And blind justice in this case is clearly not justice for the blind.