Trials & Litigation

Florida Coastal and ABA ask court to dismiss accreditation lawsuit

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Florida Coastal

Florida Coastal School of Law. Photo by Waters2100, via Wikimedia Commons.

Florida Coastal School of Law, the last of three for-profit InfiLaw schools to remain open, has asked that the court dismiss, with prejudice, its lawsuit against the American Bar Association, with the parties agreeing to bear their own costs and fees.

A joint stipulation motion was filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida. All three InfiLaw schools sued the ABA in May 2018 regarding accreditation issues after two of the three—Arizona Summit and the now-defunct Charlotte School of Law—were placed on probation by the council of the ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar.

Florida Coastal, which in October 2017 was found to be “significantly out of compliance” with various ABA accreditation standards, is now seeking nonprofit status and filed an application for substantive change with the council in February 2019. The law school wants to affiliate with a nonprofit university.

“The ABA and the Council welcome the end of this dispute. We look forward to continuing to serve the best interests of law students, the public, and the profession through the ABA law school accreditation process, which has consistently been upheld by courts and has been approved by the U.S. Department of Education,” Barry Currier, the ABA’s managing director of accreditation and legal education, said in a statement.

In an email sent to Florida Coastal students Tuesday, dean Scott DeVito wrote that an ABA fact-finder had recently visited the campus, and he claimed that the law school was able to demonstrate that it is doing as well as or better than 44 other law schools.

“In this context, Florida Coastal and InfiLaw have decided that our lawsuit against the ABA is no longer necessary to protect the interests of our students, alumni, faculty, and staff, and we are dismissing the lawsuit,” DeVito wrote. Earlier in February, he told the ABA Journal that the council would not approve the application unless it finds that the school has come into compliance with the standards. The school’s next council hearing is scheduled for May, DeVito said.

According to Florida Coastal’s 509 Report for 2018, its median LSAT score is 150; the median undergraduate GPA is 3.14. The document showed a total of 207 students. The law school’s most recent ultimate bar-passage rate for the class of 2015 is 72.08 percent, according to ABA data. For the July 2018 Florida bar exam, the law school had a pass rate of 62.5 percent, according to data from the Florida Board of Bar Examiners.

Arizona Summit settled its lawsuit with the ABA in January after the law school’s teach-out agreement was approved by the council in November 2018.

The lawsuit filed by Charlotte School of Law remains open. The last filing is an October 2018 court order granting the motion of former Kirkland & Ellis partner Viet Dinh to withdraw as counsel, after he became chief legal and policy officer for the new Fox entity that will be spun off from 21st Century Fox after its merger with Walt Disney. The law school closed in August 2017, after the council rejected a teach-out plan that the school submitted.

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