Law Schools

Judge Stays Duncan Law Litigation, Denies School's Motion for Reconsideration

A federal judge on Monday refused to reconsider his January denial of a Tennessee law school’s request for injunctive relief in its antitrust suit against the ABA.

The judge also granted the ABA’s motion to stay the litigation while the school pursues its administrative remedies but denied without prejudice the association’s motion to dismiss the case while that appeal is pending.

U.S. District Judge Thomas A. Varlan of Knoxville, in a 21-page memorandum opinion and order (PDF), ordered the ABA to notify him of the outcome of that appeal by May 3, and gave the association 21 days from then to refile its motion for a dismissal.

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

Varlan ruled against Duncan’s motion for a temporary and permanent injunction against the ABA in January on the grounds that the school had failed to exhaust its administrative remedies and was unlikely to prevail on the merits of its claims.

But Duncan asked the judge to reconsider his decision on various grounds, including what it said was newly discovered evidence about the makeup of the appeals panel that would hear its appeal and an error in the court’s analysis of the harm the council’s decision had had on the school and the public interest.

Duncan argued that exhausting its administrative remedies would be futile because the appeals panel will be biased against the school and “is merely a surrogate” for the council. It also cited evidence that applications are way down and that students have been leaving the school in “significantly increased numbers” since the council’s decision

But Varlan said the school had failed to provide any support for its assertion that the appeals panel will be biased against it except for the fact that the panel was not fully constituted until after it had filed its appeal. He also said the school had failed to show either that the drop in applications or the loss of students were the result of the council’s decision.

The judge also ruled that a stay of the litigation until the appeals panel renders its decision will serve the interests of judicial economy and efficiency without causing any likely hardship to the school because Duncan’s status as an unaccredited school awaiting a final decision regarding provisional accreditation would not change.

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

Duncan officials have previously said they would have no further comment on the matter.

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