[Posted by The Angry Clam]
Imagine, if you will, an attorney who has made numerous appearances before the Supreme Court, arguing various constitutional law claims. She’s also a respected academic, not only the author of one of the major casebooks in her field, but was, not long ago, Dean of the Stanford Law School, quite possibly the finest law school in the nation.
So what do you do? Well, if you’re Kathleen Sullivan, you leave that job to go take a highly-paid position as Los Angeles based firm Quinn Emmanuel’s head of the appellate practice group. Then you fail the California bar exam.
Yes, in an article entitled “Raising the Bar,” the Wall Street Journal reports on Ms. Sullivan’s performance. Here are the important paragraphs:
Kathleen Sullivan is a noted constitutional scholar who has argued cases before the Supreme Court. Until recently, she was dean of Stanford Law School. In legal circles, she has been talked about as a potential Democratic nominee for the Supreme Court. But Ms. Sullivan recently became the latest prominent victim of California’s notoriously difficult bar exam. Last month, the state sent out the results of its July test to 8,343 aspiring and already-practicing lawyers. More than half failed — including Ms. Sullivan. Although she is licensed to practice law in New York and Massachusetts, Ms. Sullivan was taking the California exam for the first time after joining a Los Angeles-based firm as an appellate specialist. The California bar exam has created misery for thousands of aspiring and practicing lawyers. Former California Gov. Jerry Brown passed on his second try, while former Gov. Pete Wilson needed four attempts. The recently elected mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio R. Villaraigosa, never did pass the bar after failing four times.
But it’s unusual for the exam to claim a top-notch constitutional lawyer at the peak of her game. “She is a rock star,” says William Urquhart, who last year recruited Ms. Sullivan to join his firm, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges LLP. “Practically every lawyer in the U.S. knows who Kathleen Sullivan is.” If anyone should have passed, Mr. Urquhart says, it is Ms. Sullivan. “The problem is not with Kathleen Sullivan, it is with the person who drafted the exam or the person who graded it.”
Uh, sure there, buddy.
Anyway, I can think of two possible explanations.
First, since she’s admitted in other jurisdictions, she probably took the attorneys’ exam, which consists of only the essay portions and excludes the MBE multiple choice. That’s usually a big mistake- the attorney’s exam has about a 20% pass rate, some of which I have to assume is due to the lack of multiple choice.
Second, she’s not just a law professor, but a constitutional law professor. If anyone out there has ever read a law review submission by those types before it goes through the editing process (and usually even afterwards), you’ll understand why it is unsurprising that she did not perform well on the essay portion of the bar exam.
In any event, the WSJ notes that her name gets floated as a Democratic nominee for the Supreme Court. We could do worse than someone who was an attorney for Senator McConnell when he was challenging McCain-Feingold (think of the hearings fireworks!), but, seriously, I never, ever want to see the day when a Supreme Court Justice did more poorly on the same exam than I did.
— The Angry Clam