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

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Western Michigan-Cooley Seeks Confidential ABA Law School Accreditation Records Dating Back To 2010

Thomas Cooley Logo (2017)Following up on my previous posts (links below):, Cooley Law School Seeks Confidential ABA Accreditation Records:

A Michigan law school suing the American Bar Association over its uncertain accreditation status wants access to years of internal records pertaining to how the ABA evaluates law schools.

But the ABA is pushing back, arguing in court papers that releasing such an extensive array of confidential records is unwarranted and will undermine its accreditation efforts and complicate its law school oversight.

The ABA has asked a federal judge in Michigan for a protective order limiting discovery in Western Michigan University Cooley Law School’s suit against it, which stems from the ABA’s November finding that Cooley is out of compliance with rules meant to ensure law schools admit only students who “appear capable” of graduating and passing the bar.

Cooley on Jan 5. asked the ABA’s counsel for all tapes and transcripts of meetings of the ABA’s Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, its accreditation committee, and its standards review committee dating back to 2010 when the monitoring of law schools was discussed or when schools were found to be out of compliance with the ABA’s admissions rules, according to the ABA’s motion for protective order, filed Feb. 5 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.

Cooley also wants records for any meeting in which those ABA bodies discussed rules pertaining to law school resources, objectives, academic advising, bar passage, admissions, and disclosure requirements. ...

The ABA maintains in court papers that Cooley’s request is an overreach. Cooley is entitled only to the administrative record at issue in its own accreditation case—not those of other schools, the ABA’s motion argues. Information about accreditation decisions pertaining to other schools is “irrelevant to the legal question at issue,” the ABA’s motion reads. ...

In its latest filing, the ABA alleges that the confidentiality of its accreditation process protects schools from the disclosure of sensitive information and helps ensure schools are candid in their dealings with the ABA.

“Schools have an expectation that their accreditation information will be kept confidential and will not be spread in litigation they do not bring,” reads the ABA’s motion for protective order. “If the ABA’s files were regularly thrown open in cases like this one, the Council and Committee would face needless complications in performing their monitoring and oversight functions.”

Put another way, Cooley wants access to a trove of information about the ABA’s internal accreditation discussions pertaining not only to its own campus, but every law school that has come up for accreditation or been flagged since 2010.

Prior TaxProf Blog coverage:

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