By Halie Turigliatti
At the Committee of Bar Examiners’ (CBE) meeting on January 31, 2020, the Committee considered staff’s recommendation that CBE issue a notice of intent to terminate the California State Bar’s accreditation of Pacific Coast University School of Law (PCUSOL). According to the staff memo, the school has been out of compliance with Rule 4.160(N) of the Rules of the State Bar, which requires that California Accredited schools maintain a Bar Passage rate of forty percent to keep their accreditation, since 2015.
At the meeting, PCUSOL Dean Andrea Lua provided a lengthy comment, providing a history and mission of the law school, which exists to provide an affordable, quality legal education for working adults in the diverse Long Beach community. She also stated that since she has taken over as dean in 2015, she has implemented multiple initiatives to increase the school’s bar exam passage rate, and asked that CBE staff come to the campus to visit the school and meet with students before terminating the school’s accreditation. At the time of the meeting, staff had only investigated PCUSOL via teleconference in the fall of 2019 and had not met with any staff or administrators in person.
Dean Lua’s comments were followed by several PCUSOL alumni and professors, speaking in support of maintaining the school’s accreditation. Many of them pointed out that many PCUSOL students face challenges in passing the Bar exam that traditional full-time students do not. Many students are married with children, working full-time jobs, and cannot take a few months off to study for the Bar. Many also highlighted the high cut score for California’s Bar examination.
After hearing the comments, CBE staff explained, at the request of some Committee members, that if the Committee voted to approve staff’s recommendation to issue the notice of intent to terminate accreditation, the school would have the opportunity to request a hearing before a panel of three members of the Committee who would bring the findings to the full Committee before a final decision is made as to accreditation. CBE members also inquired about probation, and staff reported that probation might be an option if the school can show evidence that it is likely to achieve compliance within a reasonable period.
After discussion, the Committee voted to table the decision until CBE’s April 24 and 25 meetings so that Committee members have time to review the new information the school provided regarding its initiatives to improve the Bar examination pass rate before the meeting. CBE will consider these supplemental materials, and will officially vote on whether or not to issue a notice of intent to terminate the school’s accreditation in April.