Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Plaintiffs' lawyers in Cooley law school scam suit consider appeal

Last Friday a federal judge in Michigan dismissed the fraud claim brought by former Cooley law school grads against their alma mater for allegedly misrepresented post-graduate employment stats. In an interview with the National Law Journal, lead plaintiffs' attorney Jesse Strauss said he is contemplating an appeal to the Sixth Circuit and that the district court ruling will not deter his team of lawyers from continuing to prosecute similar claims pending against other schools around the country. From the National Law Journal:

Counsel in Suit Against Law Schools Vow to Proceed Despite Dismissals

"Obviously, we're disappointed, but we're very proud of the work we've done," said Jesse Strauss, who along with attorneys David Anziska and Frank Raimond are coordinating the law school lawsuits around the country. "There's been a sea change in the quality of employment information. I don't think we're the only reason that happened, but I think we've been a factor. Still, I hope we're going to be able to move some money to the people who have mortgaged their future on these degrees."

Don LeDuc, Cooley's president and dean, said in a statement that the school was pleased with U.S. District Judge Gordon Quist's decision in MacDonald v. Thomas M. Cooley School of Law, 11-cv-831.

"We are committed to graduating law students who are ready to practice law, and their success in a tough job market is our success too," he said. "We have always been in compliance with American Bar Association and National Association for Law Placement employment reporting standards."

. . . .

[Judge] Quist also rejected the plaintiffs' fraud claims, ruling that the figures Cooley provided for the percentage of graduates employed and average starting salary were "inconsistent, confusing and inherently untrustworthy," but not fraudulent.

"Plaintiffs and prospective students should have approached their decision to enter law school with extreme caution given the size of the investment," Quist wrote, citing the March finding by Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Melvin Schweitzer.

Thelen said it seemed disingenuous for the plaintiffs to claim that they chose to attend Cooley solely on the basis of two job statistics for a class of students who graduated a year before the plaintiffs would enroll.

Strauss disagreed.

"It seems to me that these judges are imposing an extra layer of diligence on people going to law school," he said. "I don't think that's fair."

Strauss said he is contemplating an appeal, most likely on the Michigan Consumer Protection Act issue.

. . . .

It remains to be seen how Quist's ruling would affect the dozen pending fraud cases. Nearly all of the defendant law schools have filed motions to dismiss.

Strauss said he always assumed that the cases would be resolved by appellate courts.

"We're in this for the long term," he said. "We didn't think these cases would wrap up in a year."

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