Law Schools Sue American Bar Association
A number of law schools are suing the American Bar Association (ABA) over accreditation.
Cooley Law, Florida Coastal School of Law, and the defunct Charlotte School of Law have all accused the ABA of unfairly finding their campuses out of compliance with accreditation standards, Law.com reports.
ABA Steps Up Accreditation Enforcement
In the past two years, the ABA has stepped up its enforcement of accreditation standards, warning at least 10 law schools that they were out of compliance with standards. Generally, schools are found to be out of compliance for admitting weak students and producing low bar passage rates.
In a statement on the ABA’s website, Barry Currier, the ABA’s managing director of accreditation and legal education, says the ABA’s accreditation process is meant to provide meaningful opportunities for schools to establish that they are compliant.
“Courts have regularly upheld the ABA’s law school accreditation process,” Currier writes. “We will continue to follow our established procedures and expect to be successful in any future litigation challenging the actions of the [Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar].”
Cooley Argues ABA is “Abusing Its Accreditation Authority”
In its formal complaint, Charlotte School of Law argues that the ABA’s misuse of its accreditation power forced the school to shut down.
“The ABA’s due process violations caused Charlotte to be excluded from the federal Title IV program and made it impossible for Charlotte to continue to operate as a law school,” the school’s complaint, published by Above The Law, reads. “After graduating thousands of students, more than 80% of whom passed the bar exam, over the course of more than a decade, Charlotte was forced to shut down in 2017. This Court should hold the ABA accountable for abusing its accreditation authority and causing Charlotte to close its doors.”
Yet, according to Law.com, schools like Charlotte have struggled with bar passage in recent years. Just 34% of Charlotte takers passed the July 2017 bar exam. At Cooley Law, 41% passed in July and at Florida Coastal, 48% passed.
So, why are these schools suing the ABA? David Frakt is a lawyer who has been following accreditation suits on the blog, Faculty Lounge. Frakt tells Law.com that Cooley Law’s suit may have spearheaded numerous schools to do the same.
“The Cooley suit proved that litigation is worth the money—that there are potentially good outcomes even for what seemed like a completely laughable lawsuit,” Frakt tells Law.com. “Thomas Cooley came out of it smelling like a rose, and that certainly encouraged others.”