Paul L. Caron

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Court Refuses 2L's Request to Change "C" Grade or to Order NYLS to Adopt Pass/Fail Grading System

The New York Supreme Court has refused a New York Law School 2L's request to change his "C" grade in Legal Writing II and to order the school to change its letter grading system to a pass-fail grading system like Yale's. Keefe v. New York Law School, No. 109484/09 (N.Y. Co. Nov. 17, 2009):

Plaintiff, a current student at New York Law School ("NYLS") is suing NYLS as a result of a "C" that Plaintiff received in his Legal Writing II course. Plaintiff now moves for an injunction requiring the law school to change its grading system from letter grades to pass/fail. Defendant/New York Law School moves to dismiss. For the reasons stated below, the motion is granted.

Plaintiff attended Hofstra Law School from fall 2007 through summer 2008. Plaintiff asserts that because he is a transfer student, NYLS disadvantaged him by placing him in Legal Writing II in the spring semester of 2009. At NYLS, the legal writing curriculum is comprised of two courses: Legal Writing I and Legal Writing II.

Plaintiff further claims that NYLS breached an implied contract with him through statements on the NYLS website that require NYLS to act in good faith and fair dealing. Plaintiff maintains that the "C" he received was arbitrarily awarded and requests the relief that NYLS change its grading system from its current letter system to a pass/fail system, similar to that of Yale Law School. ...

As a general rule, judicial review of grading disputes would inappropriately involve the courts in the very core of academic and educational decision making. Moreover, to so involve the courts in assessing the propriety of particular grades would promote litigation by countless unsuccessful students and thus undermine the credibility of the academic determinations of educational institutions. We conclude, therefore, that, in the absence of demonstrated bad faith, arbitrariness, capriciousness, irrationality or a constitutional or statutory violation, a student's challenge to a particular grade or other academic determination relating to a genuine substantive evaluation of the student's academic capabilities is beyond the scope of judicial review.

Plaintiff is requesting this Court to intrude upon an area to which New York Courts have strongly refused to intervene. Here, Plaintiff has shown no evidence of "bad faith, arbitrariness, capriciousness, irrationality or a constitutional or statutory violation." NYLS clearly communicated through the student handbook that NYLS utilizes a letter grading system under which all of its students are evaluated. This Court declines to interfere with this quintessential function of an educational institution.

(Hat Tip: Adjunct Law Prof.)

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The Court's verdict is to be lauded. Education institutions must be given the liberty and discretion to determine their standards of assessment, which should not come within nor subject to any judicial review.

I just cannot imagine if the floodgate is open to all law students who fail or score low grades, the courts will be inundated with cases that question the integrity of all academic institutions in US.

Posted by: Dr B K Lau | Nov 23, 2009 10:20:55 PM