Saturday, September 27, 2014

Illinois Appellate Court affirms dismissal of class action fraud and misrepresentation lawsuits against DePaul, IIT-Kent, and John Marshall Schools of Law.

On September 26, 2014, the Illinois Appellate Court, First District, issued a published decision and two unpublished orders affirming the dismissal of the class action fraud and misrepresentation lawsuits against DePaul, Kent, and John Marshall Schools of Law (links to decisions below). Not exactly unexpected, or even particularly disappointing at this stage of the game. We will win in the court of public opinion, and our award will be the much-belated collapse of the scam.

In Phillips v. DePaul, 2014 IL App (1st) 122817, the Court found that "Plaintiffs' interpretation of this generalized employment statistic as including only full-time legal positions has been found to be unreasonable as a matter of law by courts in other jurisdictions which have considered the same issue. . . " Phillips, 2014 IL App (1st) 122817, ¶39 (emphasis added) (citations omitted). 

We at OTLSS defer to the Court's judgment, of course, but it is fair to note that year after year many thousands of comparatively bright and sophisticated kids, some of us among them, acted in lockstep unreasonable reliance. Each of us spent many tens of thousands of dollars in pursuit of a JD, having unreasonably failed to realize that the impressive employment stats that reputable old law schools displayed so proudly in their promotional literature included part-time jobs at Burger King and such.

And that was very unreasonable of us, so unreasonable as to be deemed unreasonable as a matter of law, which is a rare category of unreasonableness. See e.g. Blankenheim v. E. F. Hutton & Co., 217 Cal. App. 3d 1463, 1475 (1990) ("Except in the rare case where the undisputed facts leave no room for a reasonable difference of opinion, the question of whether a plaintiff's reliance is reasonable is a question of fact.")

And, of course, we were unreasonable in other ways, such as thinking that law school would train us to practice law rather than stretching a few months worth of doctrine to fill three long years in order to enrich dilettantish academics whose connections to the legal profession are often astonishingly tenuous.

It is unreasonable to trust a law school. If you can't take a scamblogger's word for it, then take the word of many state appellate courts-- including, most recently, Illinois.

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Chicago Daily Law Bulletin story (quoting plaintiff’s counsel as follows: "That means we’ve wiped out the omission side of the Consumer Fraud Act. . . You can get sued for leaving things out, and that's confused in these opinions.")


Phillips v. DePaul, 2014 IL App (1st) 122817:


Johnson v. John Marshall, 2014 IL App (1st) 123610-U:


Evans v. Illinois Institute of Technology, 2014 IL App (1st) 123611-U

35 comments:

  1. "It is unreasonable to trust a law school"

    That's the whole damn scam boiled down to one sentence.

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  2. You have undertaken to cheat me. I won't sue you, for the law is too slow. I'll ruin you.

    --Vanderbilt.

    THIS is what it has come to.

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  3. I think Brian Leiter must have gotten this case dismissed. He calls himself a lawyer, doesn't he? And he lives in Illinois, right?

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    Replies
    1. lol, not only is that pompous blabbermouth not an Illinois lawyer…soon he will not even be editor of the PGR!

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    2. Ah yes, the "Philosophical Gourmet Report," a sad attempt at an inside joke. Leiter thinks the world revolves around food and himself.

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  4. Contrast this with Corinthian Colleges, which has been shut down by the Department of Education, CFPB and is the target of a federal criminal investigation for publishing false and misleading employment data:
    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-09-19/corinthian-colleges-faces-further-criminal-investigations.html

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  5. Read the complaint by the CFPB against Corinthian Colleges, which has been shut down and is being criminally investigated. You could cut and paste the allegations of false and misleading job statistics from the scam law school complaints:

    http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201409_cfpb_complaint_corinthian.pdf

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  6. We disagree with the Court's ruling, but cannot host comments that could be perceived to be disparaging to the Court. Thanks.

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    Replies
    1. Since when can't lawyers opine a court got it wrong? It's our duty.

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    2. Yes, please ignore this decision and focus on the court of public opinion. In that court, the truth is considered relevant and we appear to be winning.

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  7. Most of these lawsuits of the past few years were probably correctly dismissed. Did the plaintiffs really rely on the data about employment when they signed up at the local Cooley? (I'm using Cooley as a generic term for "toilet"; any similarities to actual law skules, living or dead, are incidental and unintended.) They may not even have consulted those figures. Many of them probably would have signed up even if they had had access to accurate and non-misleading data. Look at all the people who rush headlong into law skule despite hearing the truth from us.

    If they did rely on those data, was their reliance reasonable? Prudence suggests doing a bit more investigation before taking on a quarter of a million dollars in non-dischargeable debt bearing high interest.

    Relatively few law students are "comparatively bright and sophisticated kids". Entire law schools may not have a single student of any intelligence or sophistication.

    Old Guy

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    1. It is relevant that the plaintiffs in these lawsuits all graduated between '07 and '12. There has been a sharp decline in intelligence and sophistication of incoming lower-tier law students since then, and a sharp increase in reliable information readily available.

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    2. Good point, 7:14. Even so, I wonder whether there really was reasonable reliance in these cases. Knowing what I do about law-skule lemmings, I suspect that many of the plaintiffs were hellbent on going to law school and would have signed up at one or another Cooley even if the facts of poor employment prospects had been written in neon lights.

      Expect a torrent of lawsuits in the next three years, when today's 0Ls who tell us not to rain on their parade find themselves saddled with a quarter of a million in debt and a diploma that belongs on the spindle in the necessary room. I won't support them.

      Old Guy

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    3. “[N]o rogue should enjoy his ill-gotten plunder for the simple reason that his victim is by chance a fool." Chamberlin v. Fuller, 59 Vt. 247, 256, 9 A. 832, 836 (1887).

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    4. Even the BLS is flawed. Even in cases when it does do due dilegence in reporting reasonable stats, a kid would have to use extraneous information and apply it the BLS. For instance in pharmacy, the BLS says "pharmacy will grow at above average...40% in ten years..." A student may think that's pretty good, but...they would have to track down annual graduation rates and do much research in the prospect of more school openings, then divide expected grads into that BLS number. At that point, they would realize the "above average growth" still means almost half of the pharmacy classes will be unemployed. The kid would then have to realize exponential growth, that is the exponential growth of graduates compounding as the linear increase in jobs is inadequate to prevent ever increasing soaring unemployment in pharmacy. Again--this is the best case scenario of decent, but woefully incomplete statistics and a kid with lots of time and self-learning skills to cut out the crap. You can't ask a lawyer or a pharmacist for the whats-up; as a function fo fear, they'll lie and say they love law/pharmacy.

      Then there's the argument of false advertising...

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  8. The court decided Phillips v DePaul correctly.

    The lawyers manqués sought as alleged damages not only a percentage (unstated) of the tuition fees that they had paid but also an amount (also unstated) representing the additional income that they would have received had they obtained the salaries that DePaul's data had allegedly led them to expect (at ¶ 1).

    Yet they did not even file a copy of the allegedly false and misleading data (at ¶ 25)! Nor did they attempt, beyond hollow recital, to show that the data were indeed false (at ¶ 33). Obviously the court had to dismiss their unproven claims.

    The court also correctly observed that there was no proof that they would have obtained good salaries if they had not allegedly relied on DePaul's data (at ¶ 51). Indeed, the lousiness of their legal work suggests that they wouldn't—or at least shouldn't—be hired as lawyers at any salary.

    They also ignorantly referred to their degree as "Juris Doctorate" (at ¶ 47). There is no such thing. The correct term is "Juris Doctor".

    Old Guy

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    1. Good points.

      Someone needs to file a lawsuit that doesn't place the burden of proof so high on the plaintiffs.

      You just need to have plaintiffs that reasonably relied upon the employment and salary statistics that were offered to entice enrollment from the period of 2004-2012-ish. After 2012 and the NY Times article and all the scamblogs, the reasonable reliance argument becomes difficult. But prior to 2012, ALL of the law schools that were ranked reasonably well (>50) were offering near identical stats (>90% employment, six figure salaries) and the NALP was backing them up. It would have been hard to come to the conclusion that they were all lying.

      The perfect plaintiffs would be a group of reasonably bright law grads who went to a decent law school who have had their lives utterly wrecked by debt and poor employment prospects. There are loads of people that match that description, but the only plaintiffs that have been brave enough to step forward are those that went to travesties of institutions (TJLS, Cooley, FL Coastal, etc.).

      Obviously, the plaintiffs' counsel needs to line their ducks up in a row - have proper exhibits, gather enough affidavits and plaintiffs so you can conclusively prove that the employment statistics were doctored, attach screenshots of the law school websites from the time period in question, attach copies of the glossy brochures and other lying seductive crap the law schools employ to pollute lemmings' mailboxes nationwide, etc. To any neutral observer, there are good claims here. Lives have been ruined by the debt that was taken out in reasonable reliance of the law schools' material fraudulent mistatements about salaries and jobs.

      Still, sad to see these claims dismissed.

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    2. You know, it sucks to say this but if the scambloggers don't tell the truth then the movement has no credibility.

      I applied to law schools in 1982. Upon graduation in 1985 I worked a few years at a Chicago firm before returning to my home state. To be quite frank, had my only option been matriculating at the likes of DePaul, Kent or John Marshall I never would have gone to law school. Those places were considered TTTs before there was such a thing as a TTT, and I never looked at their admissions propaganda. It was common knowledge 30+ years ago that if you didn't get into a top school your career options were going to be seriously limited. Adjusted for inflation three years of tuition at a private law school in those days would come up to about $60,000.00 in 2014 dollars. About seven years ago a friend's ivy-educated son took the LSAT. When his score fell short of the HYS range he made the very sound decision to skip law school. I agree with those who have said that some lemmings will never get it. No matter what the scambloggers do there will still be special snowflakes.

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    3. Dean Sarah Z thanks you, Old GuySeptember 30, 2014 at 11:31 AM

      "They also ignorantly referred to their degree as "Juris Doctorate" (at ¶ 47). There is no such thing".


      http://www.law.umich.edu/connection/a2z/Lists/Posts/Post.aspx?ID=63

      Delete
  9. Sounds like the cases were not well supported; did the plaintiffs' attorneys graduate from Cooley as well?

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  10. here is another interesting ruling that just came down regarding OT pay for document review attorneys:

    http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/lawyer_is_jobless_and_sleeping_in_his_car_after_losing_suit_seeking_ot_for/

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  11. lol

    "A whopping 90 percent of Brooklyn Law School graduates in 2013 found full-time employment"

    http://observer.com/2014/09/mounting-debt-makes-law-school-a-gamble-but-students-continue-to-enroll/#ixzz3EacZJtxw
    Follow us: @newyorkobserver on Twitter | newyorkobserver on Facebook

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  12. We are forgetting that law schools are held to a different standard when it comes to fraud. Even though these are civil cases, plaintiffs must prove every element of fraud beyond any reasonable doubt. Sounds ridiculous?

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  13. Try advertising success rates as a lawyer and see if the bar has the same interpretation as the court.

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    Replies
    1. Interesting point, linking in to a question that's come up here and at ITLSS many times - are the ABA MR's only for lawyers specifically when acting as lawyers representing members of the public in legal matters, or do they also cover lawyers in their duties as LS deans and deans of admissions, etc.

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  14. Law schools are doing themselves harm, setting aside any Court decisions. It's the whole "Pinto" effect. We have now arrived at that tipping point. Over the summer, I asked our interns (I'm in high tech, we had some really talented hires) whether they were considering law school. The vocal ones said, "are you crazy?"

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  15. In general, I don't think you can hold a school responsible for the failed careers of its graduates.

    Today, in particular, with all this data floating around regarding the dismal employment prospects of law school graduates, students who matriculate into law school TODAY are entirely responsible for their own failures.

    A non-lawyer with no interest in going to law school cannot be faulted for thinking a law degree is valuable. However, a person applying to law school AND taking-out substantial loans to pay for it had better do their research.

    Given that there is a near 40% drop in applications since 2010, it seems people really are doing their research.

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  16. I think I've posted on this before, but a good friend of mine has a niece who is graduating from college and considering grad school. She is sweet and bright and pretty but likely would not get into HYS and the family is not wealthy or politically connected. I was asked about law school and advised her against it, for all the usual reasons. A little later my friend said that his niece's mother had asked six attorneys, all of whom she knew, the same question and they all advised against law school. The word is indeed getting out there but it is a sad comment on the state of the "profession."

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    1. About a year ago, a nice young girl asked me if going to law school was a good idea. I was very "diplomatic" back then, and I simply told her to know what she's getting into and referred her to the "Inside the Law School Scam" blog.

      Today, I am far less diplomatic. When a son of a family friend asked me about law school, I told him he'd be a complete idiot to go to law school unless it were Harvard. I then went behind his back and told his parents NOT to let him go, and referred them to the scam blogs.

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    2. BamBam - yes you mentioned it before but just the first half (your involvement). Thanks for coming back with the follow-on info that so many other practicing lawyers told the mother the same thing you did.

      Unfortunately, I predict that your next update to this little* vignette will be to let us know that your good friend's niece has decided:

      "To Pursue Her Glorious Dreams Against All Odds, Full Speed Ahead and Damn The Debtloads".


      *Probably redundant, but I needed the two additional syllables in that clause.

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    3. ITOT--I followed up and actually things have turned out OK for her so far. She is working, and may go to grad school at some point, but has not decided yet. She has very little student loan debt due to getting a partial scholarship and work-study program. (I warned her about doing a cost-to-benefit analysis of any graduate program she considers.) She definitely ruled out law school.

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    4. Glad to hear it - thanks for the update.

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  17. Schools are supposed to disseminate knowledge. That is what everyone thinks they do, what they say they do, what the government says they do by the process of establishing a system of accreditation, and what they are paid to do. Knowledge has to be true, so it should be reasonable to expect the words of a school to be true, at least insomuch as the employees of the school know what is true or not.

    However if you cannot Reasonably Rely on an academic institution accredited by the American Bar Association (which is an association that is supposed to vet quality in lawyers). And if relying on truth claims from these academic organizations about job prospects, salaries, or indeed about any matter whatsoever great or small is Unreasonable as a Matter of Law, and their words akin to the puffery of a salesman; then what purpose do law schools serve?

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  18. I couldn't help but comment on this article. Not one JMLS grad among the three Law School counsels...not one. That should tell you everything you need to know. THEY wouldn't even hire their own graduates! They will take your money, but even when they are the ones paying the bill for services wouldn't give their alumni a second thought. At least the other two schools (DePaul & Kent) were smart enough for PR purposes to have alumni as counsels (2 each)....and the cynic in me concludes it was merely for PR and window dressing, but I could be wrong.

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  19. The judge was correct. Read law lemmings. Morons dumb enough to attend schools like Cooley and DePaul aren't relying on numbers or statistics, they are relying on stuff like this:

    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=dbSl-SPyHtg

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