Note: This article has been revised to reflect that the 20 suits had not yet been filed and to add comments from the plaintiffs’ side.
It appears that those lawsuits against law schools will keep coming.
The plaintiffs’ attorneys who have already launched class actions targeting 14 law schools announced on March 14 that they aim to sue an additional 20 schools in 10 states by Memorial Day.
The latest round of possible litigation targets two schools in the top 50 as ranked by U.S. News & World Report — Pepperdine University School of Law and American University Washington College of Law, which were tied at No. 49. Eight of the new targets ranked between nos. 50 and 100. The existing suits are against schools ranking No. 65 or lower. The announcement was not unexpected. After the attorneys sued 12 schools in one day in early February, they declared their intention to file suit against 20 to 25 additional schools every few months.
They allege that the targets committed fraud by inflating or misrepresenting their postgraduate employment data to lure students. In a press release, the plaintiffs’ attorneys said the average debt load for graduates of the 20 schools was almost $115,000. By suing so many schools at once, the plaintiffs’ attorneys hope to force some sort of a global settlement, perhaps brokered through the American Bar Association, said New York solo practitioner David Anziska. Alternatively, they might litigate individual cases that could eventually lead to a global settlement.
“This practice really is endemic in many law schools,” he said of inflating post-graduate employment statistics.
Anziska said that targeted schools claimed placement statistics that often topped out at 95 percent. However, newly revised numbers for the class of 2010 at a number of the schools showed a very different picture, with many students holding part-time or temporary jobs, or positions that don’t require a law degree, he said.
The ABA has recently imposed more rigorous reporting requirements, but Anziska attributed the revised data to the threat of litigation.
Representatives of a number of the targeted law schools declined to comment on the threat of litigation. In addition to Pepperdine and American, the attorneys hope to sue:
• Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law
• Chapman University School of Law
• Loyola Law School, Los Angeles
• Loyola University Chicago School of Law
• University of Miami School of Law
• New England School of Law
• Pace Law School
• Roger Williams University School of Law
• Saint Louis University School of Law
• St. John’s University School of Law
• St. Thomas University School of Law, Miami
• Seattle University School of Law
• Stetson University College of Law
• Syracuse University College of Law
• Valparaiso University School of Law
• Western New England University School of Law
• Whittier Law School
• Yeshiva University Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law
The plaintiffs’ attorneys stressed that they won’t file the additional suits until they identify at least three graduates of each school willing to serve as name plaintiffs.
Other than Anziska, the primary attorneys behind the suits include New York solo practitioners Jesse Strauss and Frank Raimond. The three first sued New York Law School and Thomas M. Cooley Law School in August 2011. They followed in February with suits against Albany Law School, Brooklyn Law School, California Western School of Law, Chicago-Kent College of Law, DePaul University College of Law, Florida Coastal School of Law, Golden Gate University School of Law, Hofstra University Maurice A. Deane School of Law, The John Marshall Law School, University of San Francisco School of Law, Southwestern Law School and Widener University School of Law. Whether these suits, all of which make similar arguments tailored to different state laws, will fly in court is a much-debated question. Emory University School of Law professors Morgan Cloud and George Shepherd, in an article titled “Law Deans in Jail,” posited that law school administrators and U.S. News & World Report employees might have committed federal felonies by misreporting and publishing false admissions and employment data. Of the targeted law schools that have commented on the suit, most insisted that they haven’t misreported any employment data and have followed the procedures set by the American Bar Association and the National Association for Law Placement.
Anziska, Strauss and Raimond were in New York trial court on March 12 for a hearing on a motion to dismiss the suit they brought on behalf of graduates of New York Law School. The judge has yet to rule on the matter, but said that simply meeting the ABA’s reporting standards for job placement was not an “absolute defense” against the plaintiffs’ fraud claims.
Contact Karen Sloan at firstname.lastname@example.org.