Paul L. Caron

Friday, September 15, 2017

Emory Law Profs: Law Deans May Go To Jail For Submitting False Data To U.S. News

Morgan Cloud (Emory) & George Shepherd (Emory) have posted Law Deans In Jail, 77 Mo. L. Rev. 931 (2012), on SSRN:

A most unlikely collection of suspects — law schools, their deans, U.S. News & World Report and its employees — may have committed felonies by publishing false information as part of U.S. News' ranking of law schools. The possible federal felonies include mail and wire fraud, conspiracy, racketeering, and making false statements. Employees of law schools and U.S. News who committed these crimes can be punished as individuals, and under federal law the schools and U.S. News would likely be criminally liable for their agents' crimes.

Some law schools and their deans submitted false information about the schools' expenditures and their students' undergraduate grades and LSAT scores. Others submitted information that may have been literally true but was misleading. Examples include misleading statistics about recent graduates' employment rates and students' undergraduate grades and LSAT scores.

U.S. News itself may have committed mail and wire fraud. It has republished, and sold for profit, data submitted by law schools without verifying the data's accuracy, despite being aware that at least some schools were submitting false and misleading data. U.S. News refused to correct incorrect data and rankings errors and continued to sell that information even after individual schools confessed that they had submitted false information. In addition, U.S. News marketed its surveys and rankings as valid although they were riddled with fundamental methodological errors.

Legal Education | Permalink


I forgot how much I dug this article. But putting it aside, the obvious, documented misleading job numbers and salaries that have been perpetuated over the last decade give rise to this question: what lesson does it provide law students when their teachers and recruiters so willingly misrepresent data to suit their own purposes? Because the lesson will ultimately be brought to bear upon legal consumers.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Sep 18, 2017 12:14:19 PM

Hey, if lying to the press for personal advantage deserves prison time, then Hillary should be locked up for a long, long time.

Are these professors complaining about that? I suspect not. They just don't like their school's ranking.

Posted by: Michael W. Perry | Sep 17, 2017 8:36:39 AM

i have to agree with "Criminal burden of proof > civil." lots of flagrant manipulation of numbers was exposed and there were almost no consequences at all. law students learned some important things about how the real world operates: (1) law school deans juke their stats like the managers of corporate America juke their numbers; and (2) the judges gave the schools a pass. lessons learned!

Posted by: anon2 | Sep 16, 2017 3:43:26 PM

Lawyers lie. Who knew about such a thing? Shocked.

Posted by: Yehiel Handlarz | Sep 16, 2017 8:37:00 AM

Back in the day, the definition of a profession included a requirement for self regulation. Why hasn't the Bar Association stepped in and censured these Deans? Or has the whole legal profession become so corrupt that falsification of data isn't important?

Posted by: Steve | Sep 16, 2017 8:31:31 AM

could a private citizen bring a RICO lawsuit in a case like this or would it have to be a student from a fraudulent law school?

Posted by: Wyfaggro | Sep 16, 2017 7:20:11 AM

I'll be happy to visit them

Posted by: mike livingston | Sep 16, 2017 5:07:36 AM

Pretty much every civil suit that has been brought against law schools for allegedly misleading students has been dismissed on the merits.

If law schools aren't civilly liable, it seems very unlikely that the much higher burden of proof for criminal acts could be met.

Posted by: Criminal burden of proof > civil | Sep 15, 2017 11:50:35 PM

I've long-thought that someone should be checking /auditing the numbers sent into USNWR. (to my understanding they are not audited). That said, what crime are they committing? Lying, in and of itself, is not a crime. The first poster said that business leaders can go to jail for false information, but that is under the securities law (federal statute). I'm not saying that it *shouldn't be* a crime, but I'm just not sure that it currently *is* one, despite the authors' assertion here.

Posted by: Madame Tussaud | Sep 15, 2017 11:49:43 PM

Can we do something similar for The New York Times and The Washington Post?

Posted by: Anon | Sep 15, 2017 9:48:03 AM

And why not? Business leaders can go to jail under certain circumstances for intentionally submitting false information. What is law school but a business? That is how they are run.

Posted by: JM | Sep 15, 2017 6:21:43 AM