California Legislature Urges United States Congress to Amend GI Benefits Requirements

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By James Lanham

Assembly Joint Resolution (AJR) No. 12 (Stone), as filed with the Secretary of State on September 7, 2021, encourages the United States Congress to eliminate the requirements that a law school must be accredited by a specialized accreditor and that law school graduates must be able to take the bar examination in any state in order to receive GI benefits. This legislative resolution is in response to H.R. 7105, which amended sections 3676(c)(14)(B) and 3676(c)(15)(B) of Title 38 of the United States Code to add these requirements. The resolution was introduced on April 15, 2021, and enrolled to the Governor on August 26, 2021. [26:2 CRLR 150]

According to AJR No. 12, the American Bar Association (ABA) is the only specialized accrediting agency for legal programs in the United States. As a result, the amendment to federal law rendered veterans at California accredited law schools ineligible for GI benefits. There are currently 1.9 million veterans living in California and 23 California accredited law schools in the state. California, as the most populous state in the nation, is the only state with its own law school accrediting agency.

The legislature noted several reasons for the adoption of AJR No. 12. First, California accredited law schools are often located in rural and underserved communities where no other viable alternative law schools for veterans exist. The location of these schools also leads to more legal services for communities in need when veteran graduates stay in the area after admission to the State Bar. Additionally, California accredited law schools often accept students with lower Law School Admission Test (LSAT) scores than ABA-accredited law schools. As a result, they provide a pathway for admission to the Bar for veterans who do not score high enough to attend an ABA-accredited school. California accredited law schools also often admit a more diverse student population than ABA-accredited schools, providing more opportunities for admission for a diverse group of veterans in California. Finally, as stated in the resolution, some California accredited law schools have “significantly higher” California bar exam passage rates as well as “far lower” tuition costs than some ABA-accredited schools, making them a viable alternative for veterans.

After passage, AJR No. 12 was sent to the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, the Majority Leader of the United States Senate, and each Senator and Representative from California in the Congress of the United States.

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