TaxProf Blog

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

Friday, May 11, 2018

Florida Coastal Law School Sues ABA; Kirkland & Ellis Alleges Arbitrary Enforcement Of Accreditation Standards

Florida Coastal (2017)Press Release, Florida Coastal School of Law Files Suit Against American Bar Association:

  • Complaint Cites Arbitrary and Inconsistent Enforcement of Accreditation Standards
  • School alleges ABA's actions constitute an attack on diversity

In a lawsuit filed on Thursday in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida, (Jacksonville Division), Florida Coastal School of Law (Florida Coastal) alleges that the American Bar Association (ABA) has acted arbitrarily in its dealings with Florida Coastal while applying its law school accreditation standards, despite Florida Coastal posting top marks state-wide in recent bar passage rates, as well as Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE) passage rates, and the achievements of its nationally lauded National Moot Court team.

Florida Coastal is represented by former Solicitor General of the United States Paul D. Clement, former Assistant Attorney General of the United States Viet D. Dinh, and H. Christopher Bartolomucci, all of Kirkland & Ellis LLP.

"The complaint filed today in federal court alleges that the actions the ABA took against the law school were arbitrary and capricious, and violated the due process required of those wielding accreditation power," said Kirkland & Ellis' Clement.

Update:  David Frakt, In Defense of Florida Coastal:

Over the last four years, I have perhaps been Florida Coastal’s most outspoken critic. But the point of that criticism was to get Florida Coastal to change its practices and behave responsibly. It appears to me that Florida Coastal has taken that criticism to heart and is making a genuine effort to turn things around. Dean Scott DeVito has done a deep dive into the numbers to understand what kind of students with what kind of LSAT scores and grades have a reasonable chance of success at Florida Coastal, and he has put that plan into action, even though it has required making drastic and painful cuts to faculty and staff. That kind of effort should be acknowledged.

I have no problem with the ABA being tough. But if it is to be tough, it must also be consistent in its approach and transparent in its reasoning. By imposing tough remedial measures on Florida Coastal, while ignoring other law schools with current and ongoing egregious admission practices (e.g. Charleston and Southern), and by its inconsistent actions toward Thomas Cooley and other law schools, the ABA appears to be arbitrary and capricious rather than firm but fair, and that is not good for legal education or the profession.

Legal Education | Permalink


This was completely predictable. Cooley had even lower admission stats last fall, was declared out of compliance with ABA Standard 501 regarding admissions standards, sued the ABA, and magically was back in compliance. We should reasonably expect most of the other law schools still out of compliance despite having higher numbers than now-in-compliance Cooley to sue the ABA. And were this a normal administration, we would expect the Department of Education and/or NACIQI, the overseer of accreditors, to be asking the ABA some real uncomfortable questions.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | May 11, 2018 7:47:46 AM