The American Bar Association has been hit with a third suit in a week alleging its law school accreditation practices are arbitrary and unconstitutional.
The now-shuttered Charlotte School of Law alleges that it was forced to close after the ABA found it hadn’t complied with four accreditation requirements.
Once the Department of Education found out about this, it didn’t allow the school to participate in the federal loan program, “making it impossible” to remain open, a statement released on behalf of the school said.
Two suits last week allege the ABA was too hard on the Florida Coastal School of Law and that it was too soft on Charlotte. Last week’s suit involving Charlotte is a whistleblower action alleging the ABA repeatedly ignored Charlotte’s non-compliance with accreditation standards.
The association declined to comment on the cases.
All of the suits reflect the fact that the ABA is trying to enforce the standards with some consistency, Derek Muller, a professor at Pepperdine School of Law, told Bloomberg Law.
The ABA is “stuck between a rock and a hard place,” Muller said.
The Justice Department charged the ABA in the mid-1990s with having accreditation standards that were too strict, but the Education Department has been saying it needs to get tougher, Muller said.
Due Process Mess
Charlotte, which operated as a for-profit school, claims that a judgment against the ABA finding due process violations in its accreditation procedures would allow it to take steps to reopen and benefit other schools.
This includes the Florida Coastal School of Law, owned by Infilaw, which also owns Charlotte and is a plaintiff in the latest legal challenge.
The suit lists several reasons why the ABA violated Charlotte’s due process rights, including that it didn’t apply clear accreditation standards, didn’t consistently enforce them and didn’t explain why it took the adverse actions.
The ABA would have abdicated its responsibility if it hadn’t held Charlotte responsible for its admissions practices, Kyle McEntee, executive director of Law School Transparency, told Bloomberg Law.
The transparency group provides information and analysis on legal education issues. Its “principle job is consumer protection,” McEntee said.
“To that end, the ABA held Charlotte School of Law accountable for failing to adhere to fundamental, not overly burdensome standards,” he said.
David Frakt, a member of Law School Transparency, said accreditation standards are vague, especially the admissions standard.
The ABA, he added, has been reluctant to say what a reasonable admissions standard is.
Paul Clement, former solicitor general now at Kirkland & Ellis in Washington, represents Charlotte School of Law and Florida Coastal School of Law.