Cooley’s Federal Lawsuit Against The ABA Heads To Summary Judgment Proceedings - The Sanders Firm
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Cooley’s Federal Lawsuit Against The ABA Heads To Summary Judgment Proceedings

Thomas M. Cooley Law School’s May court filing for summary judgment on its lawsuit against the American Bar Association (ABA) sheds further light on the Western Michigan University’s admissions compliance controversy. [2:17-cv-13708-AJT-DRG, DOC #77, E.D. Mich (2017)]

Colley wants the ABA to pay damages for defamation and for abusing the school’s constitutional rights after the controlling body’s Section of Legal Education and Accreditation publicly held in March 2017 the university’s admissions policy violated ABA Standard 501(b).

Predatory Admission Practices

The ABA publicly accused Cooley late last year for participating in predatory admission practices after the school admitted students with weak LSAT scores and low GPAs into its law school program.

Cooley claims such allegations insinuated the university unjustly collected tuition from students it knew possessed low chances of passing the bar even after graduating, a contention that the law school overwhelmingly denies.

The ABA’s March 2017 non-compliance letter cited admission records of freshmen accepted at Cooley with grade point averages of 2.49 to below 2.1, violating ABA Standard 501(b) that explains “A law school shall only admit applicants who appear capable of satisfactorily completing its program of legal education and being admitted to the bar.” https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/publications/misc/legal_education/Standards/2017-2018ABAStandardsforApprovalofLawSchools/2017_2018_standards_chapter5.authcheckdam.pdf

Cooley Files Temporary Restraining Order (TRO)

Western Michigan University fired back by filing a federal lawsuit and pursuing a TRO in November to stop the ABA from releasing its accreditation findings to the public. [2:17-cv-13708-AJT-DRG, DOC #1, E.D. Mich (2017)]

Cooley argued the ABA’s public reprimand violated the Higher Education Act and common law due process; the school further petitioned the courts to enjoin the ABA from publishing or circulating the letter into academic communities.

The courts later concurred with the Accreditation Committee’s findings and opinions and denied Cooley’s appeal for restraint. The holding further authorized the ABA to conduct “interim monitoring” to determine when or if the university would return to 501(b) compliance and follow accreditation rules.

ABA Reversal

In April, the ABA reversed its Nov 2017 decision and notified Cooley their program was back in Standard 501(b) compliance; the ruling body further informed the university it would cancel its June compliance hearing because Cooley remains to be “an ABA approved law school.”

The Accreditation Committee sent the school a separate letter detailing how the ABA runs punch card data through “Magic Machines” to discover 501(b) compliance via correlation studies and regression approaches.

These devices found the school returned to acquiescence after January 2018 when Cooley began denying law school admission to students with GPAs below 2.0 and allowed presumptive admission subject to academic review those with GPAs ranging from 2.35 to 2.49.

Cooley Amends Federal Lawsuit

Western Michigan University denies any past or present predatory admission practices in its ABA lawsuit that alleges the following;

  • The ABA’s November 2017 non-compliance ruling was unlawful because 501(b) is an ambiguous standard without adequate written guidance on how to comply.
  • The ABA denied Cooley common law due process when the organization rejected an appeal of its 2017 findings.
  • Its Accreditation Committee enforcement of Standard 501(b) was arbitrary and capricious in essence.
  • No evidence exists that shows Cooley was out of compliance in November 2017.
  • Section 501(b) violates the Fifth Amendment, and the courts should find it void for vagueness under strict scrutiny.
  • The ABA’s disclosure of its November 2017 was unlawful and defamatory.

The plaintiffs attached its reversal decision letter, obtained in April 2018, with its motion for summary judgment to reinforce the arguments above.

 

Works cited:

ABA Standards, 501(b), accessed on June 08, 2018, https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/publications/misc/legal_education/Standards/2017-2018ABAStandardsforApprovalofLawSchools/2017_2018_standards_chapter5.authcheckdam.pdf