Disabled student gets fresh shot at LSAT

Senior must get more time to take law test, federal judge rules

By Karen Abbott, Rocky Mountain News
February 6, 2004

When Abby Rothberg takes the Law School Admissions Test in New York on Saturday, she'll have extra time to finish it on orders from a Colorado federal judge.

Denver U.S. District Judge Wiley Daniel ordered the Law School Admission Council on Thursday to allow 50 percent more time for Rothberg to complete the test because she has a learning disability.

Without the extra time, the judge ruled, Rothberg's score on the admission exam required by all accredited law schools wouldn't reflect the Cherry Creek High School graduate's true intellectual abilities and achievements.

"It's important that people with proven disabilities be allowed to compete on an equal footing with people without disabilities," Rothberg's attorney, Theresa Corrada, said Thursday.

The LSAC refused three times to give Rothberg more time despite the recommendations of two psychologists who tested her and determined that she is smart, but slowed by her difficulty in processing visual information and performing tasks based on that information.

Rothberg took the LSAT in October without extra time and scored on the low side of average. The LSAC argued that her performance on the test showed that Rothberg wasn't substantially disabled and consequently didn't qualify to be given extra time to complete the test.

Rothberg believed the LSAC was unfairly limiting her to average test results. After the LSAC refused twice more to grant her extra time to finish the test, she sued on Jan. 22. Daniel heard testimony from her psychologists and an LSAC official before ruling in Rothberg's favor.

The LSAC is expected to appeal to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but not until after Rothberg, 21, takes the test. She was studying for it Thursday night at Syracuse University in New York, where she is a senior with a 3.3 grade point average. "I expect to do better," Rothberg said.

She realized she had a learning disability when she was in the second grade and her classmates could read, but she couldn't. She has had tutoring, extra time to finish tests and other assistance throughout her school years in Colorado and at Syracuse University. When she took one test for college admission without seeking extra time, she scored below average. When she took another test with extra time, her score was above average.

The LSAC first denied Rothberg extra test time on grounds a recommendation from an educator who had assisted her in high school was out of date. The second time, after Rothberg was interviewed and tested by a psychologist, the LSAC denied her extra test time on grounds the psychologist had not administered a certain test. The third time, after Rothberg was given that test by a second psychologist, the LSAC refused to grant Rothberg extra test time on grounds she wasn't substantially disabled.

Daniel's ruling said the LSAC's decisions were made by an official with fewer academic qualifications than Rothberg's two psychologists. The LSAC official never interviewed or tested Rothberg, as the psychologists did, and receives about 2,000 requests for disability accommodations every year, Daniel said.

Lisa Hogan, attorney for the LSAC, said she was reluctant to discuss the case "because the LSAC harbors no ill will toward this young woman and wishes her the best."

Daniel ordered the LSAC to give Rothberg 53 minutes to finish sections of the LSAT ordinarily timed at 35 minutes, and 45 minutes for the 30-minute sections. He also ordered that Rothberg be allowed to take the test away from the distractions of other students.