When senior Abby Rothberg applied to law school
this past fall, she got an early lesson in disability law.
The Syracuse University senior sued the Law School Admissions Council after it
refused to accommodate her learning disability, Now, after a judge ruled in
Rothberg's favor, LSAC is appealing the decision to a higher court.
In fourth grade, Rothberg, a political science and psychology major, was
diagnosed with a learning disability that slows her ability to process
information in a short period of time.
"My ability to process information is slower than my peers," Rothberg
said. "So taking a timed test makes it pretty much impossible for me to
compete with my peers."
As a result, Rothberg received 50 percent more time than her peers in high
school, college and even on the ACT.
This fall, though, the LSAC didn't grant her request for extra time on the law
school admissions test.
"I've had accommodations since I was 5 years old," Rothberg said.
"I didn't think that this would be any different."
In response, Rothberg filed for a lawsuit, claiming that the denial violates the
Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. The act prevents discrimination against
disabled persons when it comes to employment and services, such as standardized
"Under the relevant law, in order for someone to be eligible to receive
accommodations, they must have an impairment that substantially limits a major
life activity such as working, seeing, walking or reading," said Arlene
Kanter, a law professor and an expert in disability in law.
The trial, which began Jan. 28, was held in Denver, Rothberg's hometown. Her
lawyer, Theresa Corrada, felt that Rothberg's psychological test results were
the cases most powerful arguments.
"Our evidence of her disability was strong," she said. "We had
two expert witnesses, two clinical psychologists, that testified that she fit
the definition of individuals under the Disabilities Act."
Dr. Thomas Griffiths, a New York psychologist, found that Rothberg processed
information better than 10 percent of her peers, according to the court
LSAC's lawyer, who declined to comment, based her primary argument on the fact
that Rothberg scored in the 38th percentile - an average score - on the LSAT
when she first took the test without accommodations in October, according to the
Rothberg, though, didn't accept that argument as valid.
"I feel that they're saying that if you have a learning disability, all you
can ever do is average," Rothberg said. "I feel I can be above average
if (LSAC) levels the playing field. And right now, the playing field isn't level
because it's a timed test without accommodations."
Judge Wiley Daniel of the 10th District Court agreed with Rothberg, and on Feb.
7 ruled in her favor.
About two weeks later, LSAC appealed both the court's decision and an injunction
that would have allowed Rothberg to use the results of her January test, in
which she received special accommodations, in her law school application.
Kanter said Rothberg's case is similar to a 1997 case, Bartlett v. New York
State Board of Law Examiners. Bartlett, who is dyslexic, applied for special
accommodations during the New York state bar exam.
"At the final stage, the court held that the plaintiff was limited in the
major life activity of reading when compared to the average reader," Kanter
She added that if the Rothberg case was filed in the New York's 2nd U.S. Circuit
Court then the Bartlett case could have provided a precedent.
If the Colorado court upholds the appeal, the two different circuit courts will
be in disagreement, which could bump the Rothberg case into a higher court.
"The Supreme Court will take cases if there is a split in the
circuit," Kanter said. "So ultimately if the second circuit's decision
comes to a different decision than the second decision in Bartlett, then the
case could be ripe for Supreme Court review."