Law Schools

ABA Files Motions to Dismiss, Stay Duncan School of Law Litigation

The ABA moved Wednesday to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a Tennessee law school in December after it was denied provisional accreditation by the association’s law school accrediting arm.

Lincoln Memorial University’s Duncan School of Law is suing the ABA for alleged antitrust and due process violations over a Dec. 20 decision (PDF) by the governing council of the association’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar to deny its bid for provisional accreditation.

The ABA’s motion, filed Wednesday in federal court in Knoxville, where the suit is pending, says Duncan’s antitrust claim should be dismissed because the allegations are based on nothing more than “conclusory assertions” that have no basis in fact.

The motion also says that Duncan’s due process claim should be dismissed because the process by which the school’s bid for provisional accreditation was conducted was fair, and the council’s decision to deny its application was well-supported by the evidence.

The ABA also filed a motion Wednesday to stay the litigation because Duncan has since filed an appeal of the council’s decision with an appeals panel of the section. Such a stay would allow the appeals panel to fully consider the school’s claims, avoid premature litigation and provide a complete record of the proceedings for judicial review, it says.

In a memorandum in support of its dismissal motion, the ABA says the record shows that Duncan failed to establish substantial compliance with several accreditation standards. It also says the record shows that Duncan had been given ample opportunity to make its case.

“The conclusory allegations in the school’s complaint are belied by the extensive administrative record, which contains substantial undisputed evidence supporting the council’s conclusion that the school had not demonstrated that it was in substantial compliance with each of the standards,” the memo says.

The memo also says the school’s antitrust claim should be dismissed because Duncan has failed to allege any basis for suggesting that the denial of accreditation was an unreasonable restraint of trade or the result of any conspiracy on the part of the ABA and certain unidentified “competitor” law schools referred to in the complaint.

“The school pleads no facts supporting its conclusory allegations” as to any such conspiracy, the memo says.

Hulett “Bucky” Askew, the ABA’s Consultant on Legal Education, declined comment on the filing.

Duncan officials could not be reached for comment.

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