ABA Files Brief in Opposition to Duncan School of Law Complaint

The ABA filed a brief today in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Tennessee in response to a complaint filed by Lincoln Memorial University Duncan School of Law.

The lawsuit claims that the ABA violated antitrust laws. “What it says is that in a nutshell, we were denied due process because we met the standards promulgated by the ABA and we didn’t receive accreditation, so what we’re seeking is fair hearing,” said Sydney A. Beckman, vice president and dean of LMU’s law school. “It also alleges antitrust violations because it appears when you deny a school that met accreditation standards, that you’re try to limit the number of law schools.”

The response states that Duncan School of Law was not in “substantial compliance” with all of the section’s Standards for Approval of Law Schools, including Standard 203 (Strategic Planning and Assessment), Standards 303(a) and (c) and Interpretation 303-3 (Academic Standards and Achievements), and Standard 501(b) and Interpretation 501-3 (Admissions and Student Services). The response also suggests that Duncan School of Law has not exhausted its right to appeal the decision by the Council of the Section of Legal Education to deny provisional accreditation.

Breaking: ABA sued by Duncan School of Law

The Knoxville News Sentinel is reporting that Lincoln Memorial University is suing the ABA in federal court. (View the complaint here.) Earlier this week, LMU’s law school, the John R. Duncan Jr. School of Law, was denied provisional accreditation by the ABA Section of Legal Education because it was not in substantial compliance with Standards 202, 303, and 501, including low admissions standards. The school has already received accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and the Tennessee Board of Law Examiners.

The lawsuit claims that the ABA violated antitrust laws. “What it says is that in a nutshell, we were denied due process because we met the standards promulgated by the ABA and we didn’t receive accreditation, so what we’re seeking is fair hearing,” said Sydney A. Beckman, vice president and dean of LMU’s law school. “It also alleges antitrust violations because it appears when you deny a school that met accreditation standards, that you’re try to limit the number of law schools.”

In the complaint, LMU observes that “”Defendant ABA’s actions also constitute an intentional misuse of its dominate market power as the gatekeeper for for accreditation of law schools and the benefits that accompany that status.” Blank Rome’s Michael Cioffi contributed to this complaint. He also worked on Cooley’s Sixth Circuit appeal for one of its branch campuses back in 2006.

Dean Beckman told the Knoxville NBC affiliate,”We regret having to take this action. We want to work with the ABA to improve legal education, not work against them or have them work against us.”

Whatever the result of this suit, it is clear that the pressure on the ABA will continue until the entire legal education system substantially changes.

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