Tuesday, November 13, 2007

One of my questions answered

I posted earlier about the South Carolina bar exam flap. The South Carolina Supreme Court issued a terse statement Friday stating that the results of the Wills, Trusts, and Estates section of the exam were tossed out because the bar examiner, on October 31, reported a "scoring error" to the Supreme Court. The State newspaper reported that two of the people who benefited (by having their grades changed from "Fail" to "Pass") by tossing that portion of the test were the daughters of the state legislator who is chairman of the SC House Judiciary Committee, and the daughter of a sitting SC Circuit Court Judge. The legislator and the judge both acknowledged having contacted the Chairman of the Board of Bar Examiners.

In my post below, I wondered: "Did the examiner discover and report the error because of the communications by the legislator and the judge with the Chairman of the Board of Bar Examiners?"

According to a story The State published today, attorney George Hearn, who is the Chairman of the Board of Bar Examiners, says that he wasn't aware of anything being reported to the state Supreme Court:

The head of the board that grades the qualifying exam for South Carolina’s new lawyers says he was left out of the loop about a scoring error the Supreme Court cited in reversing grades for 20 people, including the children of a state lawmaker and a circuit judge.

S.C. Board of Law Examiners chairman George Hearn said neither the high court nor any of his board members informed him about the matter after the board submitted final scores of the July exam to the court before they were posted Oct. 26.
“Our board doesn’t have anything to do with it once we report the scores,” he told The State in an interview Monday. “Anything that happens afterward is done by the court.”

At this point your correspondent would just like to say that George Hearn is a local (Conway) attorney, and he and his firm have an excellent reputation. She herself would retain his firm if she ever needed an attorney, which she hopes she won't, and if she could afford it, which she hopes, someday, she could, whether or not she actually needed an attorney. She digresses. In short, she believes what he says here. Also, she doesn't know why she is referring to herself in the third person.

In any case, she is glad that the Chairman of the Board of Bar Examiners is clarifying his role, such as it was (nil, apparently) in the grade changing. However, as The State's reporter, Rick Brundrett, delicately puts it:

That apparently raises questions about what little the Supreme Court has said on the matter — that it was acting after “a scoring error reported by the examiner” Oct. 31.

It also would seem to put the court at odds with a new rule it imposed in March, banning any appeals and changes in grades after exam results are released.

Yes. So it would seem. Your correspondent hopes sincerely that the Supreme Court will further clarify this matter, in order to preserve the reputation of the legal profession in the eyes of the public . . . don't think she doesn't hear you giggling back there.

In related news, Rogue Planet favorite Thad the Impaler is one of the people who passed the bar exam without the Court's intervention. So, you know, how damn hard could it have been?

Clarification, or not: Maybe I'm making too much of this, but: Above, I said the examiner of the Wills, Trusts, and Estates portion of the bar exam reported a "scoring error" to the SC Supreme Court. However, if you read the Court's statement about this, it doesn't actually say that the examiner is the one who reported the error to the court. Rather: "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." Thanks to the careless, or deliberately obscurative, use of the passive tense, we don't know WHO actually communicated the "scoring error" to the Clerk of the Supreme Court. The bar examiner "reported" it, according to the Court, but the Court doesn't say to whom the error was reported (Judge Burch? Rep. Harrison? The Clerk of the Supreme Court? Who knows?) If you parse the statement it's not clear the bar examiner who "reported" the error is the same person who "communicated" it to the Court. For whatever that's worth.


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