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A former student at the Massachusetts School of Law has sued the school, claiming he was unfairly suspended for poor grades after a professor deviated from the course syllabus.
Martin Odemena claims that he earned a D in his contracts class because professor Joseph Devlin counted the results of several quizzes—initially presented as optional—into his final grade.
Odemena filed a pro se suit on Friday in U.S. District Court for Massachusetts naming both Devlin and the law school as defendants. He seeks upwards of $100,000 in compensatory damages for not currently having a legal career, plus attorney fees and a declaration that the quiz results do not count toward his grade.
He claims the school violated Massachusetts’ consumer protection laws.
According to the complaint, Odemena was a night law student during the 2010-2011 academic year when he took Devlin’s contracts class. The course syllabus said there would be optional reviews and quiz sessions each Friday afternoon, some of which Odemena did not attend.
At the end of the course, Odemena received a D grade, lower than he expected, the compliant says. When he inquired about his low grade, Devlin said that the quizzes were factored into the final grades.
Reached Monday, Devlin referred questions about the suit to fellow professor Peter Malaguti, who acts as the school’s general counsel. Malaguti declined to comment on the merits of the suit, but said the school would file a motion to dismiss.
According to the complaint, Odemena protested his grade through Malaguti, but an investigation concluded that Devlin orally amended the written syllabus during the first class session to make clear that the quizzes would count toward final grades. A fellow student found notes from the class reflecting the change, Malaguti concluded.
After receiving his low grade, Odemena was suspended and given a letter declaring that he was not in good standing with the law school. That letter, in turn, made it impossible for Odemena to transfer to another law school, according to the complaint.
“Plaintiff has tried all possible means to resolve this matter with the defendants without success, and the plaintiff has spent a lot of money retaining counsel in numerous attempts to resolve this matter with defendants,” the complaint reads. “Furthermore, since the defendants gave the plaintiff a not-good-standing letter because of the D grade in the contracts class, the plaintiff has suffered actual harm. Plaintiff could not get into any other law school with a not-good-standing letter, and his legal career is for all practical purposes over.”
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