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Rumors circulated widely in the legal community Tuesday that the American Bar Association denied Barry University’s law school accreditation for the fourth time. If an ABA committee once again has recommended against accreditation, it leaves some 200 students and 110 graduates with uncertain futures. The Orlando, Fla., school must win the ABA’s provisional accreditation for its graduates to qualify to take the Florida bar exam and be admitted to practice law. In a notice posted on the law school Web site, Dean Stanley M. Talcott said he received a copy of an action letter from the ABA Accreditation Committee. He said the committee feared the law school would lower admission standards in order to meet enrollment projections. He did not say what action the panel took. Talcott planned to meet with students Wednesday to discuss the school’s accreditation status. “After the meeting I’ll be able to comment,” he said. Last February, the ABA denied accreditation because the school admitted several students who the panel felt would not likely pass the bar exam. It also expressed concern about the program’s “rigor” and noted the school had not studied the potential impact of the soon-to-open law school at Florida A&M University, also in Orlando. Jay Martin Burke, chairman of the ABA accreditation committee, declined to reveal what the panel said in its latest letter to the Barry University School of Law. School officials declined comment. While ABA and Barry officials are keeping quiet, sources involved in the law school’s wrangling with the ABA say the letter of action is a clear denial. Orlando lawyer Matthew Staver, who represents Barry law students and graduates in a lawsuit against the ABA, said he’s spoken with knowledgeable sources who say the committee’s letter denied accreditation. Staver said the decision was based on projections that Barry’s academic quality would plummet when Florida A&M University’s new state-sponsored law school opens nearby. “It doesn’t make sense,” Staver said. “The site report praised the academic standards, then the accreditation committee denied [accreditation] because they prophesied the future.” In September, the ABA’s site review committee toured the facilities and interviewed students and faculty, Staver said. It issued a 40-page report in October praising the students’ academic performance. That report was submitted to the accreditation committee, which makes recommendations to the ABA’s general counsel. Two Florida law school deans said they also had heard that Barry was again denied accreditation, but they declined to elaborate. Barry has the right to appeal a negative committee decision. ABA spokeswoman Nancy Slonim confirmed the accreditation committee’s recommendation is pending but has yet to be finalized by the ABA Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar. Slonim said Barry’s accreditation status is scheduled to be discussed at the council’s next meeting, Feb. 2-3 in Philadelphia.

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