Paul L. Caron

Monday, February 26, 2024

Appalachian Law School Deanship Remains Open After Deputy AG Declines Position; Faculty Bristles At Selection Without Their Input As Required By ABA

Richmond Times Dispatch, The Little Law School That Could:

Appalachian Law School (2024)As Chuck Slemp apparently saw it, you can go home again.

The chief deputy to Attorney General Jason Miyares, Slemp — a Southwest Virginia native from a storied Republican family who’s been a local prosecutor, a general practitioner and an adjunct professor — was recently offered the deanship of the Appalachian School of Law in Grundy. The struggling, 26-year-old private institution produces lawyers for a remote, mountainous region that has long been short on educational and economic opportunity.

But the faculty of the tiny school — it has about 120 students, about a third of ASL’s enrollment when it opened in 1997 — bristled over Slemp’s selection.

Many favored for the job the interim dean, David Western, a former Air Force lawyer popular with students who is also a Presbyterian minister. ... Perhaps believing discretion the better part of valor, Chuck Slemp declined the appointment. ... 

[A] possible factor in Slemp’s decision: the ABA, as principal overseer of the legal profession and legal education, requires a say for faculty in the selection of law school leadership. Some instructors said they were last to learn of Slemp’s candidacy, having heard about it from students. ...

Jeff Mitchell, a Blacksburg lawyer who recently merged his firm with Terry Kilgore’s and may be the only identifiable Democrat on the school’s board, said that ASL — as an instrument of economic development, producing lawyers for rural areas that the ABA describes as legal deserts — is at an “inflection point.”

That is, it faces challenges in leadership, financing and enrollment unique to a young, stand-alone enterprise that can’t rely on a parent institution for aid — financial, administrative and academic. ... Filings with the IRS show that expenses at ASL have outstripped revenues in each of the past two years by about $3 million. Beyond tuition and donations, the school draws cash from approximately $11 million in restricted and unrestricted funds. ...

As for the deanship — held by about dozen people, including Anthony Sutin, a Harvard-educated, Clinton Justice Department lawyer who was among three shot dead at the school by an angry student in 2002 — it remains open for the foreseeable future.

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