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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Judge Nixes Cooley's Defamation Suit Against Law Firm, Bloggers Critical of its Job Stats

Thomas Cooley Logo (2013)ABA Journal, Cooley Law Defamation Suit Against Law Firm and Bloggers Critical of its Job Stats Is Nixed by Judge:

A federal judge has nixed a defamation suit filed by Thomas M. Cooley Law School against a law firm and bloggers who criticized the institution's portrayal of its graduates' employment statistics.

Finding that the law school is, at minimum, a limited-purpose public figure, U.S. District Judge Robert J. Jonker on Monday ruled that, as a matter of law, Cooley could not show clear and convincing proof of actual malice and granted a summary judgment motion by the plaintiffs, dismissing the case. The law school vows to appeal. ...

[T]he judge offered a zinger amidst a discussion of non-defamatory hyperbole. "Further, the statement that 'Cooley grossly inflates its graduates’ reported mean salaries' may not merely be protected hyperbole, but actually substantially true," Jonker wrote, citing two opinions in which courts had reached similar conclusions:

"MacDonald v. Thomas M. Cooley Law School, 880 F. Supp. 2d 785, 794 (W.D. Mich. 2012) (finding that the average starting salary for all graduates specified in Cooley’s 2010 Employment Report 'does not represent the average starting salary for ‘all’ graduates; nor does it even represent the graduates’ average starting salary for whom Cooley knew the employment status. Standing alone, the representation is objectively untrue.'); MacDonald v. Thomas M. Cooley Law School, 724 F.3d 654 (6th Cir. 2013) ('We agree with the district court that this statistic is "objectively untrue.”')."

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