Balkinization  

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Law Schools Suffer Loss in Lawsuits

Brian Tamanaha

Of the dozen-plus misrepresentation lawsuits filed against law schools by their former students, in recent months three have been dismissed (several have survived motions to dismiss and are in discovery). The core basis for the dismissal is the same in all three: prospective students cannot reasonably rely upon employment data posted by law schools.

Judge Schweitzer dismissing the suit against New York Law School:
plaintiffs could not have reasonably relied upon NYLS's alleged misrepresentations, as alleged in their fraud and negligent misrepresentation claims, because they had ample information from additional sources [*] and thus the opportunity to discover the then-existing employment prospects at each stage of their legal education through the exercise of reasonable due diligence.
Judge Cohen dismissing the suit against DePaul Law School:
Plaintiffs allege that it was reasonable to rely on the Employment Information without making any independent investigation of their own because DePaul is a law school and prospective students should be able to rely on information presented by a law school. Plaintiffs, however, offer no authority standing for the proposition that prospective students or enrolled students may close their eyes to publicly available information [*] on employment opportunities for lawyers and rely solely on data provided by the educational institution in deciding to enroll at, or stay enrolled at, the institution.
Judge Quist dismissing the suit against Cooley Law School:
The bottom line is that the statistics provided by Cooley and other law schools in a format required by the ABA were so vague and incomplete as to be meaningless and could not reasonably be relied upon. But, as put in the phrase we lawyers learn early in law school--caveat emptor.
These three law schools, and others facing similar suits, undoubtedly count these decisions as victories. But I cannot shake the sense that they mark a deep wound to the standing of law schools. The students we welcome in our doors are being warned by state and federal judges that they cannot take at face value the employment information we supply. For law schools, which have always held themselves out as honorable institutions of learning and professionalism, this is crushing.

[* Judges Schweitzer and Cohen both assert that there was ample available public information on the true employment prospects. This is not correct. When writing my book on law schools, I discovered that it was nearly impossible to find comprehensive employment data on individual law schools. A sophisticated and suspicious prospective student would have been able to figure out that the employment numbers posted by many law schools are incomplete and untrustworthy, but they would not have been able to find out the actual employment numbers. It was only after the lawsuits were filed that more detailed information became available.]

Comments:

Brian,

My understanding (perhaps mistaken) is that the lawsuits have not fared very well and that more than three have been dismissed.

Other than the Thomas Jefferson case in California, which of the suits are in discovery? It would be helpful to know as well if there have been written decisions in these cases.
 

This comment has been removed by the author.
 

Milan,

In addition to Thomas Jefferson, the WSJ blog reports that suits against Golden Gate and USF have "cleared initial hurdles" and are proceeding, although I have not seen written decisions on either (see http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2012/09/12/illinois-judge-tosses-consumer-fraud-suit-against-depaul-law/
 

This isn't my field, but it seems bizarre to say that a fraudulent claim isn't fraud if dutiful investigation reveals its falsity. I found especially interesting Judge Quist's contempt in the sentence, "But, as put in the phrase we lawyers learn early in law school--caveat emptor."

Do you think that these judges may have been biased, either by conscious professional loyalty to law schools or by unconscious deference to institutional authority?
 

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Law students started losing faith in the law schools since at least 2005. I've often wondered why it took the media and professor so long to recognize that. Kudos to Prof. Tamanaha and others for continuing to focus on this issue.

http://www.legalethicsforum.com/blog/2005/03/ethics_is_law_s.html

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John Paul Stevens reviewed Prof. Levinson's book for the NY Review of Books.

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Balkinization: Of the dozen-plus misrepresentation lawsuits filed against law schools by their former students, in recent months three have been dismissed (several have survived motions to dismiss and are in discovery). The core basis for the dismissal is the same in all three: prospective students cannot reasonably rely upon employment data posted by law schools... These three law schools, and others facing similar suits, undoubtedly count these decisions as victories. But I cannot shake the sense that they mark a deep wound to the standing of law schools.

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Joe, thanks for the link to Justice Stevens; review of "Framed." If my eyes hold up, I may read the book.
 

http://www.booktv.org/Program/13775/Framed+Americas+51+Constitutions+and+the+Crisis+of+Governance.aspx

C-SPAN will re-air a book appearance by Sandy Levinson on 9/29 at 9AM EST. For those who can access it, the link also provides video.


 

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