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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

6th Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Lawsuit by Thomas Cooley Graduates Over Placement Data

CooleyMacDonald v. Thomas M. Cooley Law School, Nos. 12-2066/2130 (6th Cir. July 30, 2013):

The plaintiffs, twelve graduates of the Thomas M. Cooley Law School, sued their alma mater in district court, alleging that the school disseminated false employment statistics which misled them into deciding to attend Cooley. The graduates relied on these statistics as assurances that they would obtain full-time attorney jobs after graduating. But the statistics portrayed their postgraduation employment prospects as far more sanguine than they turned out to be. After graduation, the Cooley graduates did not secure the kind of employment the statistics advertised—or in some cases any employment at all. They claimed that, had they known their true—dismal—employment prospects, they would not have attended Cooley—or would have paid less tuition. Because their Cooley degrees turned out not to be worth what Cooley advertised them to be, they have sought, among other relief, partial reimbursement of tuition, which they have estimated for the class would be $300,000,000. But because the Michigan Consumer Protection Act does not apply to this case’s facts, because the graduates’ complaint shows that one of the statistics on which they relied was objectively true, and because their reliance on the statistics was unreasonable, we AFFIRM the district court’s judgment dismissing their complaint for failure to state any claim upon which it could grant relief. ...

Most of the plaintiffs had difficulty finding full-time, paying jobs as lawyers after graduating. Anders Christensen graduated from Cooley Law in 2010, passed the Utah Bar, and worked as a law clerk for a Utah law firm, where he is currently an associate. Carrie Kalbfleisch, who graduated in 2010, passed the Kentucky Bar and started her own law firm in Kentucky. After graduating in 2010, John T. MacDonald, Jr. passed the Michigan Bar, but could not find full-time, permanent legal employment and so was forced to open up his own law firm which he still operates. Shawn Haff, who also graduated in 2010, could not find full-time, permanent legal employment, and so he took temporary, contract assignments reviewing documents to make ends meet. He now owns and operates his own law firm in Michigan, where he is licensed to practice law. Dimple Kumar, who graduated in 2009, passed the New York Bar, but tried unsuccessfully for over nine months to find full-time, permanent legal employment. He was forced to take temporary, contract assignments reviewing documents to make ends meet, until he found full-time employment practicing landlord-tenant law. He currently owns and operates his own law firm. Dan Guinn, who also graduated in 2009, passed the Ohio Bar, but was also forced to take temporary, contract assignments reviewing documents to make ends meet. He now owns and operates his own law firm. Similarly, Kevin Prince, after graduating in 2009, passed the Michigan Bar, but was forced to take temporary, contract assignments reviewing documents to make ends meet, until finding full-time, permanent employment, nearly a year after graduating from law school. Benjamin Forsgren, who graduated in 2008, passed the Utah Bar and began his current position as a contracts manager at a Utah company. Lastly, Chelsea A. Pejic, who graduated in 2006, could not find gainful legal employment despite circulating hundreds of resumes, and so was forced to endure a long period of unemployment. She passed the Illinois Bar, and operated her own law firm for a brief period while working as a volunteer staff attorney and a temporary contract attorney.

Others have not been able to find any legal employment. Shane Hobbs, who lives in Pennsylvania, graduated in 2010. He failed to secure any type of legal employment and has worked as a substitute teacher and day laborer at a golf course. Steven Baron, who graduated in 2008, lives in Los Angeles, California. He is currently unemployed and has failed to get any kind of job, despite circulating hundreds of resumes. Danny Wakefield graduated from Cooley Law in 2007. Although he passed the Utah Bar, and used to be a member in good standing, he voluntarily assumed inactive status because he could not get any type of employment in the legal profession. He currently manages the deliveries of telephone books. ...

The graduates cannot prove that Cooley committed fraudulent misrepresentation based on the “percentage of graduates employed” because the graduates cannot prove that this statistic was false. The statistic does not say percentage of graduates “employed in full-time, permanent positions for which a law degree is required or preferred.” It only says percentage of graduates “employed.” The graduates might have thought that “employed” meant employed in a permanent position for which a law degree was required or preferred—but, again “[a] plaintiff’s subjective misunderstanding of information that is not objectively false or misleading cannot mean that a defendant has committed the tort of fraudulent misrepresentation.”

In its latest (2010) public tax return, Thomas Cooley reported $123.2 million in revenues and 13 administrators and faculty with total compensation in excess of $200,000, led by Dean LeDuc ($605,507, although he reports that he works 60 hours per week; former Dean Brennan reports working 5 hours per week for his $375,185 compensation).

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Comments

Thank you for including the court decision text about the plaintiffs, who they are and what they do. You are the only site that has done so. Too often the actual plaintiffs get ignored in high-stakes cases like this. Thank you again for being different and actually spotlighting the human lives involved in these fraud cases.

Posted by: Thank You | Aug 1, 2013 9:01:20 AM