Supreme Court Seal
South Carolina
JUDICIAL DEPARTMENT
Site Map | Feedback
Court News

Supreme Court Issues Additional Statement
Regarding the July 2007 Bar Examination

Actions of this Court relating to the July, 2007, South Carolina Bar Examination have been the subject of public discussion.

On November 2, 2007, the Court released a statement on the South Carolina Judicial Department's website seeking to explain its decision that the Wills, Trusts, and Estates Section (WTE) of the examination would not be considered in determining the examinees' success or failure.  Notwithstanding this effort to address our actions, the media, the public, and the bar continue to express understandable concerns. In an effort to address these concerns, we issue this additional statement.

The South Carolina Board of Law Examiners administered the examination to 552 examinees during the period July 23- July 25, 2007.

The examination consisted as usual of seven sections: the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) and six essay sections.  Each essay section included three or four questions formulated by examiners; the subjects tested in the essay sections were as follows: Commercial Transactions and the Uniform Commercial Code; Domestic Relations and Equitable Remedies; Insurance; Wills, Trusts, and Estates; Federal and State Procedure; and Corporations, Agency, and Partnership.  In order to receive an overall passing score, an examinee is required to achieve a passing score on six of the seven sections.[1]

Grading of the examinations is strictly anonymous. Exam scores are recorded and catalogued by a number assigned to each examinee prior to the exam. The Court does not furnish examiners with the list matching examinee names and examinee numbers.

At the end of the grading period, the results are transmitted to the Clerk of Court, whose office matches the number assigned to an examinee to his/her name.

This process was followed in the grading of the July 2007 examination.  The scores of the examination were received from the examiners, and compiled by the Supreme Court Clerk's Office. Names of the successful examinees were posted on the Judicial Department's website on October 26, 2007, at 4 pm. As is common practice, only the confidential numbers of the unsuccessful examinees were posted.

On October 31, 2007, the examiner of the WTE section reported to the Clerk's Office that he had made a scoring error in his report of the examinees' scores. This was not a "re-grade,” but merely an error in transcription that was discovered as the examiner prepared to transmit the examination books to the Court. The error was that an examinee who had previously been reported as having passed the WTE section, had in fact failed the section.  The Clerk of Court then reviewed the examinee's other essay section scores and discovered that the examinee's WTE failure, coupled with the examinee's failure on one other essay section resulted in the examinee not receiving an overall passing score. The examiner's initial report of a passing score was a scrivener's mistake. The scoring error and its consequence was reported to the full Court at its conference on November 1, 2007, at which time the Court was faced with determining what action, if any, to take with regard to the error.

After deliberation, the decision was made to eliminate the entire WTE section from consideration.  In making this decision the Court determined that it would be inappropriate to reverse the affected examinee's[2] previous notification of successful completion of the examination.  See Rule 402(i)(5) ("The results reported by the Board of Law Examiners is final…”).  This decision then raised the question of fair and equitable treatment for those examinees, who, like the examinee affected by the reporting error, had failed the WTE section and only one other section, thus resulting in an overall failing score.  It was against this backdrop that the Court made the decision to eliminate the WTE section from consideration so as to provide equal treatment to those in exactly the same position as the affected examinee.  The Clerk advised the Court that this action would result in an additional twenty examinees receiving overall passing scores on the examination. 

No consideration was given to the identity of any examinee who would stand to benefit from this action.  Moreover, the action was not influenced by any appeal, campaign, or public or private outcry.  It was simply deemed the best choice among several problematic alternatives.

The Court regrets that this scoring error occurred and will seek to insure that there will be no recurrence of this problem.

We take this opportunity to express our complete confidence in all members of the Board of Law Examiners and its Chair, George M. Hearn, Jr., and reiterate that the scoring error was simply a scrivener's mistake.  We accept full responsibility for our actions in seeking in good faith to rectify the error.

We recognize that even this detailed statement may not satisfy those who have voiced honest and thoughtful criticism of our actions, and we further accept that legitimate debate may be had whether our decision was the best among all competing alternatives.  But we assure the public and the bar that the Court's actions were not the product of pressure, favoritism or discrimination in any form.

We further pledge to the public, the bar, and to future examinees that we are committed to maintaining the integrity of the bar admissions process.


[1] Of the 552 examinees, 428 initially received passing scores, which number rose to 448 following the Court's action of November 2, 2007.  The section failure totals were:

Section  # Failed
Equitable Remedies & Domestic Relations       52
Wills, Trusts, & Estates    107
Insurance   58
Federal & State Procedure         58
Commercial Transactions & UCC 77
Corporations, Agency, & Partnership  76
Multistate Bar Examination     99

By way of comparison, the February, 2007, bar examination was administered to 203 examinees, of whom 152 received overall passing scores.  The section failure totals were:

Section # Failed
Equitable Remedies & Domestic Relations   22
Wills, Trusts, & Estates   21
Insurance     15
Federal & State Procedure  18
Commercial Transactions & UCC 23
Corporations, Agency, & Partnership    32
Multistate Bar Examination 49

[2] This person's name was not known to the Court at the time of this decision.