Blind student sues ABA over LSAT

Nyman Turkish PC, a national disability and litigation law firm, has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case of Angelo Binno, a blind Michigan man who sued the American Bar Association (ABA) more than 5 years ago for disability discrimination.

“This case is about far more than just one student,” said Jason Turkish, managing partner of Nyman Turkish, who took on Binno’s appeal to the nation’s highest court pro bono. “This case is fundamentally about whether we’re going to treat people with disabilities equally in this country or not. Angelo isn’t seeking damages. He’s not asking to be graded on a curve. He’s simply asking for a level playing field and a chance to be judged on his merits. The Law School Admission Test (LSAT), as currently configured, simply doesn’t allow him that chance.”

Despite graduating from Wayne State University, speaking three languages and previously holding a high-level security clearance with the Department of Homeland Security, Binno was unable to gain admission to law school because he cannot complete the “logic games” portion of the LSAT.

The “logic games” section requires test-takers to perceive spatial relationships and draw diagrams and pictures.

Binno, 34, was rejected by every law school he applied to after taking the LSAT because he couldn’t draw diagrams and thus scored too low, according to Turkish. 

The ABA has “long since recognized the discriminatory nature of the LSAT yet it threatens law schools it regulates with loss of accreditation should those schools make the simple accommodation of waiving this inherently discriminatory exam,” Turkish said.

Until the mid-1990s, the ABA allowed law schools to waive the LSAT requirement for those who are “physically incapable” of taking the test. That exception was repealed by the ABA, and now all law school applicants must take the LSAT, regardless of disability. Binno contends that asking him to draw diagrams and perceive spatial relationships illegally tests him on his inability to see rather than on his aptitude for the study of law.

Binno, who lives in West Bloomfield, originally sued the ABA over the LSAT requirement in 2011. However, the lower courts ruled that Binno’s lawsuit could not proceed because, although the ABA “requires” the use of the LSAT, the ABA itself does not physically “offer” the test.

Binno’s lawyers disagree, arguing the ABA could easily alleviate Binno’s injury by returning to its past policy of allowing law schools to waive the requirement.

For his part, Binno said, “I can’t study any harder. I simply can’t compete fairly because I can’t draw out a diagram like a sighted person can to figure out the answers to these questions.” As an NPR profile noted “Binno is no slouch. He graduated from his high school a year early, had an internship at a law firm after graduating and speaks three languages.”

“This is why the American people have such low regard for lawyers,” Turkish said. “For the ABA, the largest group of attorneys in America, to avoid taking responsibility for a discriminatory test they themselves require is an outrage. If the decisions of the lower courts stand, the door will permanently open to countless acts of discrimination. Employers will be able to weed out persons with disabilities by requiring discriminatory exams that they simply contract out to third parties. This is not justice, it’s a sham, and the ABA should be ashamed of itself.”

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