Jury rejects fraud claim against law school
Former student said Thomas Jefferson School of Law misrepresented alumni employment data
The Thomas Jefferson School of Law did not defraud a graduate who claimed she based her decision to enroll on misleading information, a split jury decided Thursday in a widely watched trial.
Anna Alaburda, who sued the school in 2011, said during a trial in San Diego Superior Court that she enrolled in the nonprofit law school after reading statistics that showed a high number graduates had jobs nine months after earning their degrees.
Although she graduated near the top of her class in 2008 and passed the bar exam on her first attempt, she has never worked as an attorney in a law firm and said she believes the employment statistics provided by the school were inaccurate.
Jurors rejected the claim that she based her enrollment decision on misleading information, and one juror said he also was influenced by Alaburda’s decision to turn down a law firm’s job offer in 2008.
After less than a day of deliberations, the jury returned Thursday morning with a 9-3 verdict in favor of the school.
Her lawsuit was one of 15 that had been filed across the country by other law school graduates with similar claims. Judges have rejected requests for class-action status in some cases and have dismissed others. Alaburda’s has been the only case to go to trial.
She had sought $92,192 in lost income and $32,475 in reimbursement of tuition and fees.
Alaburda and her attorney left the court immediately after the case concluded. Thomas Jefferson School of Law President and Dean Thomas Guernsey said outside the courtroom that the verdict proves the merits of the school.
“I’ve been there two and a half years, and I came there because I thought it was a great place,” Guernsey said. “I like the vision, I like the mission, I’m incredibly impressed with the faculty and staff and the students.”
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In the end, [one juror who sided with the school] said he had mixed feelings about the verdict. While Alaburda said she did everything she could to find a job in a law firm, she also acknowledged that she turned down a job at a firm because she believed it was predatory against bankrupt consumers.
“The fact that she had a job offer was a big factor,” he said.