A federal judge in Michigan has dismissed a lawsuit against the Thomas M. Cooley Law School brought by a former student who was kicked out for allegedly cheating.
Amit Ghoshal sued Cooley in 2010 for more than $75,000, claiming the school falsely accused him of cheating to prevent him from transferring out. The school denied the allegations and countersued for $16,551 in unpaid tuition.
Upon the recommendation of a federal magistrate judge, U.S. District Judge Janet Neff dismissed both Ghoshal’s suit and Cooley’s counterclaim on March 6.
“We are pleased with the outcome,” said Cooley General Counsel James Thelen. “The judge determined that there was no legal merit to Mr. Ghoshal’s claims that he was improperly dismissed after Cooley’s Honor Council found him responsible for violating Cooley’s honor code.”
Ghoshal, who could not be reached for comment, failed to appear during a Feb. 15 hearing in the matter. His attorneys at Silver & Van Essen in Grand Rapids, Mich., asked to withdraw from the case in September after Ghoshal failed to communicate with or pay them, according to the magistrate judge’s report.
“I don’t know what, exactly, he was doing,” said former Ghoshal attorney Lee Silver. “But we had to withdraw from the case.”
According to his complaint, Ghoshal enrolled at Cooley in fall 2006 and a year later attempted to transfer to the University of Tulsa College of Law to care for his ailing mother.
After gaining a provisional acceptance at Tulsa, Ghoshal completed the fall 2007 exam period at Cooley and participated in a “grade appeal process,” the following February, according to his complaint. That process allows students to review their test sheets and exam bluebooks in the course of a challenge or appeal of their grades.
A Cooley administrator suspected Ghoshal of changing an answer during the review period and filed a report with the dean of student affairs. The ensuing investigation and subsequent hearings on Ghoshal’s alleged cheating put a hold on his transfer to Tulsa, which revoked its provisional offer of admission after learning of matter.
On June 3, 2008, Ghoshal was charged with two separate violations of the school’s honor code: cheating and lying. After Ghoshal refused to accept a one-term suspension from the school, Cooley held an evidentiary hearing in September 2008, according to court documents. The three-member panel unanimously found Ghoshal guilty of both honor code violations and recommended that he be dismissed. He appealed the sentence, but it was upheld by a school appeals panel.
Ghoshal left Cooley two classes and a moot court paper shy of meeting the graduation requirements, according to his complaint. He sued for breach of contract.
In its response, Cooley argued that it followed its internal review procedures and that Ghoshal had no ground to sue. The magistrate judge concluded that the school did not breach any contract with Ghoshal.
“As detailed in the plaintiff’s complaint, the determination to dismiss plaintiff from law school was made only after an investigation, an evidentiary hearing, and several levels of review and reconsideration,” the magistrate wrote, noting that no reasonable person would call the school’s actions “arbitrary or capricious.”
The magistrate also noted Ghoshal’s failure to appear during the Feb. 15 hearing.
Thelen said Cooley is still deciding whether to proceed with its claim for unpaid tuition. “The court dismissed our counterclaim for unpaid tuition not because the claim lacked merit, but because the court no longer had federal diversity jurisdiction over the case once Mr. Ghoshal’s claims were dismissed,” he said.
Contact Karen Sloan at firstname.lastname@example.org.