An Opportunity to Be Heard: A Call for Impartiality in the Law School Admission Council's Disability Accommodation Review Process

Article excerpt

Abstract: Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990, endeavoring to eliminate discrimination against disabled Americans and assure equality of opportunity. The Law School Admission Council's (LSAC) accommodation review process contradicts this purpose when it denies disabled individuals seeking accommodation on the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). In its current state, this review process enables LSAC to issue denials without affording the disabled applicants an opportunity to be heard or to confront adverse witnesses. These omissions fail to meet procedural due process standards, but LSAC, as a non-profit, private corporation, is not compelled to meet these standards unless its monopolistic and coercive position over law school applicants qualifies its conduct as public in character. This Note argues that if the purpose of the ADA is to be fully realized, LSAC should implement an impartial appellate review process for disputes arising from accommodation requests by disabled individuals.

Introduction

Abby Rothberg noticed that she was different in the second grade when she could not read like the rest of her peers.1 Two years later, a psychologist diagnosed her with a learning disability based on her processing speed, confirming her suspicions.2 Rothberg's school dis- trict provided her with various accommodations, including extended time on tests, throughout the course of her elementary and secondary education, enabling her to succeed academically.3

Rothberg took both the SAT and the ACT before applying to col- lege.4 She took the SAT without an extended time accommodation and scored a 960, placing her in the 38th percentile of those who took the test.5 Rothberg received 50% additional time to complete the ACT and scored a 25, placing her in the 82nd percentile.6 She matriculated to Syracuse University and received accommodations throughout her col- lege education.7 By the start of her senior year, she had earned a grade point average of 3.3 out of 4.0.8

During her senior year, Rothberg decided to continue her educa- tion by attending law school.9 She registered for the Law School Admis- sion Test (LSAT) and applied to the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) for the accommodation of fifty percent additional time.10 LSAC denied her request, claiming that her documentation did not establish her disability.11 Rothberg took the LSAT in October 2003 without any accommodation.12 Hindered by her disability, she could not complete a significant portion of the test and resorted to randomly selecting answers for approximately one-third of the multiple-choice questions.13 As a result, she scored a 148, placing her in the 38th per- centile.14

Unsatisfied with her score, Rothberg decided to take the LSAT again and registered for the December 2003 test.15 She again at- tempted to secure an accommodation for the test and addressed LSAC's concerns regarding the documentation of her disability.16 She underwent a neuropsychological evaluation, conducted by a clinical psychologist experienced in learning disabilities, to obtain an assess- ment of her disability and a recommendation for taking standardized tests.17 This evaluation confirmed Rothberg's learning disability and concluded that because of her weak processing speed, it took her sig- nificantly longer "'than the majority of her peers to complete the same volume of material.'"18 The evaluation recommended that Rothberg receive extended time to complete all standardized tests to account for her disability.19

Rothberg submitted the report to LSAC as part of her application for an accommodation on the December 2003 LSAT.20 LSAC did not dispute the psychologist's qualifications to make such a recommenda- tion, but denied the request because the psychologist did not adminis- ter a particular reading test.21

After multiple fruitless appeals asking LSAC to reconsider, Rothberg opted not to take the LSAT that December.22 Instead, she vis- ited another psychologist who administered the required reading test; the second psychologist also concluded that Rothberg required addi- tional time on standardized tests. …