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Sander v. State Bar of California

November 7, 2016 – After trial, the San Francisco Superior Court has issued a decision that protects the privacy of hundreds of thousands of California lawyers. The Court ruled in favor of the State Bar of California, holding that the State Bar does not have to release individual-level applicant data. Since 2008, the Plaintiffs in the lawsuit have sought unprecedented access to the State Bar’s data on applicants for the California Bar Exam from 1972 to 2008, including race, law school GPA, Law School Admission Test score, whether an applicant passed the Bar Exam, and raw and scaled scores on the Bar Exam. The State Bar has consistently fought these requests and defended the privacy interests of its applicants, who provided the State Bar their private information with the understanding it would be kept confidential.

In its 22-page written decision, the Court denied the Plaintiffs’ request and found that disclosure of the requested records infringed on the privacy rights of attorneys. The Court also held that disclosure of the requested records is barred from disclosure under newly enacted Business and Professions Code section 6060.25 and multiple provisions of the California Public Records Act.  “This decision highlights the importance of protecting the privacy rights of California attorneys,” said James Wagstaffe, trial counsel for the State Bar of California. “There are human consequences when privacy is invaded and we are gratified that the Court recognized this important interest.”

James Wagstaffe and Michael von Loewenfeldt appeared for the State Bar.

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