CHARLOTTE, N.C., May 15, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- In a lawsuit filed on Tuesday in the United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina (Charlotte Division), Charlotte School of Law (CSL) alleges that the American Bar Association (ABA) acted arbitrarily and capriciously in its dealings with CSL, failed to meet statutory and other standards for fairness and due process, and rendered decisions against CSL despite noting CSL's "strong commitment to academic success."
CSL is represented by former Solicitor General of the United States Paul D. Clement, former Assistant Attorney General of the United States Viet D. Dinh, and H. Christopher Bartolomucci, all of the Washington office of Kirkland & Ellis LLP, a worldwide law firm of nearly 2,000 lawyers.
"The complaint filed today in federal court alleges that the ABA's actions against CSL violated the due process required of those wielding accreditation power and caused CSL to be excluded from the Title IV federal loan program, making it impossible for CSL to continue to operate as a law school," said Kirkland & Ellis' Clement.
In November 2016, the ABA took the unprecedented step of placing CSL on probation without providing any explanation for its decision. Moreover, in a complete departure from precedent, the ABA imposed the sanction of probation without a recommendation from the Accreditation Committee. This, and other decisions made by the ABA in disregard of the most basic requirements of due process, caused the Department of Education to terminate CSL's participation in the Title IV program. This meant that students could no longer obtain federal financial assistance to attend CSL and made it impossible for CSL to continue to operate as a law school.
Despite CSL's repeated requests, the ABA never provided the school with clarity as to what it wished CSL to do in order to meet its unwritten and non-public requirements for compliance with relevant standards. Having unwritten and unclear standards violated federal regulations governing accreditors. So, too, did the ABA's repeated failure to identify how CSL fell short of accreditation standards. Indeed, the ABA's actions defied even common-sense notions of fairness.
The ABA, moreover, has inconsistently applied its written and unwritten standards among law schools. When the ABA took adverse action against CSL in 2016, it knew that the school had increased the incoming credentials of its students and was committed to further increases: for the entering Class of 2016, CSL had an acceptance rate of 65% -- lower than 33 other law schools. By August 2016, CSL had reduced its acceptance rate to 47%, lower than 115 other law schools. The result: CSL was set to bring in a Spring 2017 entering class that would have had higher LSAT credentials than approximately 35 schools.
In spite of these changes, the ABA found CSL out of compliance with their admissions standards and placed CSL on probation, and the Department of Education revoked CSL's access to Title IV funding. By contrast, other schools with similar or lower bar pass rates than CSL's continued to maintain or decrease the incoming credentials of their students but were not – and many still have not been – found out of compliance or sanctioned by the ABA. The suit alleges that the reason for the difference in treatment is that certain former Department of Education officials pressured the ABA to take adverse actions against proprietary law schools such as CSL.
The ABA's abuse of its accreditation authority is not new or isolated. In the 1990s, the Department of Justice brought an antitrust action against the ABA that resulted in an extensive consent decree. And, in the 2000s, the Department of Education challenged the ABA because of its vague bar passage standards. Yet the ABA has not learned from these experiences and persists in applying its standards in an arbitrary and discriminatory manner.
This release is in reference to case number 3:18-cv-00256 Charlotte School of Law v. The American Bar Association et al., which was filed today in the United States District Court, Western District of North Carolina, (Charlotte Division).
About Charlotte School of Law
Charlotte School of Law was founded in 2004 with a mission of providing inclusive excellence in legal education. CSL's programs and services were directed toward enabling individuals, including those from groups historically excluded from legal education and the legal profession, to fulfill their potential to become lawyers or pursue other satisfying careers in the legal sector. CSL has produced more than 2,200 graduates and boasts an ultimate bar passage rate of 80% from 2010 to 2016. Graduates have gone on to pursue successful careers in various fields of law, in private practice and in government, in North Carolina and many other states.
SOURCE Charlotte School of Law