Antitrust Law

Federal Judge Nixes Duncan Law TRO, Calls School's Future Success in Suit Against ABA 'Unlikely'


A federal judge in Knoxville today refused to grant preliminary injunctive relief sought by the plaintiff Tennessee law school in an antitrust lawsuit against the American Bar Association that also alleges due process violations.

Lincoln Memorial University’s Duncan School of Law is “unlikely” to succeed on the merits in the litigation, not only because it has not exhausted its administrative remedies against the ABA, but on the merits, wrote U.S. District Judge Thomas A. Varlan in a 43-page opinion (PDF) on Duncan’s motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary and permanent injunctive relief.

“Although the court finds that plaintiff is not likely to succeed because it failed to exhaust its administrative remedy, assuming exhaustion is not required or that plaintiff was excused from the exhaustion requirement, it nevertheless appears that plaintiff is unlikely to succeed on the merits of its federal-common-law and state-law due process claims.”

Duncan argued that its reputation will be irreparably harmed if the ABA is not ordered to remove a memorandum posted on its website by the council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar concerning its decision last year not to grant provisional accreditation to the law school.

However, the judge was doubtful that Duncan was harmed by the memo, rather than its continuing status quo as an unaccredited law school, and indicated that he thought much of the claimed damage to the law school from the memo was speculative.

And, he wrote, requiring the ABA to post other material, as the plaintiff sought, concerning Duncan, would substantially harm the ABA. “Particularly, defendant’s free speech rights will be compromised, and the Supreme Court has noted that interference with free speech, ‘for even minimal periods of time, unquestionably constitutes irreparable injury.’ “

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “ABA Urges Judge Not to Intervene In Accreditation Denial”

Knoxville News Sentinel: “Tennessee panel to wait to take up LMU law school accreditation”

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