Hey, it was just a little motion to intervene. So what was all the fuss?
Not one, not two, but three judges in San Francisco Superior Court either recused themselves or were asked to step aside by counsel on Wednesday during a hearing in a case over bar exam data.
Maybe it’s the nature of the case? UCLA law prof Richard Sander wants to examine State Bar data for proof that affirmative action doesn’t work. After his previous study suggested affirmative action might be responsible for black students’ high bar-exam failure rates nationwide, his premise is that race-based preferences opened doors of elite law schools to minority students who weren’t academically prepared and might have prospered at less prestigious law schools.
Yeah, that’s going to tick some people off.
Some ticked-off people, and recuse excuses, after the jump:
First in line? Some people whose Bar exam scores are in the data set (1972-2007) that Sanders wants. At Wednesday’s hearing in Sander v. State Bar of California, 08-5-8880, about two dozen individuals who took the test during that period sought to intervene and oppose release of the information.
The motion was finally heard — and denied — by Judge A. James Robertson. But only after going through three previous judges. Judges Charlotte Woolard and Peter Busch recused themselves, and retired Judge Paul Alvarado was challenged by attorneys for the California First Amendment Coalition, which has allied itself with Sander.
Michael von Loewenfeldt, a partner at San Francisco’s Kerr & Wagstaffe who represents the State Bar in the matter, and James Chadwick, a partner in Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton’s Menlo Park office who represents CFAC, said today that they don’t believe the two judges who recused themselves were afraid of the controversial subject matter.
Both attorneys said they had no idea why Woolard stepped aside but noted that Busch reportedly has a son at Bingham McCutchen, which represents the proposed intervenors. There’s an associate named Frank Busch in Bingham’s San Francisco office.
“So I suspect that’s why Judge Busch recused himself,” von Loewenfeldt said, “and not anything to do with the substance of the case.”
However, there has been some speculation by others close to the case that Woolard and Busch also might have felt they had a possible conflict. Woolard was admitted to practice law in 1979 and Busch in 1981, putting their own bar scores into the data set in question.
Von Loewenfeldt, though, thought that might be far-fetched.
“It’s hard for me to believe that there’s a giant bevy of judges sitting over there worrying about that,” he said.
As for Judge Alvarado, Chadwick exercised a peremptory challenge under Civil Code Section 170.6
Who will eventually hear the entire case isn’t clear. Judge Robertson stepped in just to hear the motion to intervene.
— Mike McKee