Legal Education

Dismiss Florida Coastal suit, ABA says; case not 'ripe' for review

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Florida Coastal School of Law/Wikimedia Commons.

The American Bar Association has filed a motion for summary judgment to dismiss the lawsuit brought by Florida Coastal School of Law, arguing that the accreditation dispute is not appropriate for federal court litigation.

On Sunday, the ABA filed a motion to dismiss with the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida arguing that, because the ABA’s Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar has yet to rule on Coastal’s appeal, the matter is not “ripe” for federal court. According to the motion to dismiss, the Council is expected to consider the appeal during its Aug. 2 meeting.

“Coastal will not suffer hardship from delay: The school, the ABA, and other sources have already issued public notice of the Committee decision, and neither of the other two remedial requirements—a notice to students and a fact-finder visit—will occur until after Coastal’s appeal is resolved. For these reasons, it is premature for this court to consider Coastal’s claim until its appeal has concluded,” the filing states.

According to the motion, courts have previously held that judicial review of the ABA’s actions are not ripe until the ABA’s processes are complete.

“The court cannot evaluate whether Coastal was denied due process if Coastal has not yet actually availed itself of the processes still available to it,” the filing states. “Moreover, the court need not and should not under settled accreditation case law conduct a first review of the committee decision where the council is in the process of reviewing that same decision.”

Florida Coastal is one of three for-profit InfiLaw schools, which, during May 2018, all filed federal due process lawsuits against the ABA for accreditation findings that the schools were out of compliance with standards involving admissions and programming. Florida Coastal, which unlike the other two InfiLaw schools has not been placed on probation, received notice in October 2017 that it was “significantly out of compliance” with various standards. The matter has been ongoing since May 2016, according to the filing.

The other InfiLaw actions filed against the ABA, brought by the now-closed Charlotte School of Law and Arizona Summit School of Law, which was placed on probation in March 2017, are ongoing, and filed in different federal court districts.

Arizona Summit’s bar pass rate for July 2017 was 20.1 percent, according to data released by the Arizona Supreme Court, and its February 2018 pass rate was 19.8 percent. The pass rate for Florida Coastal was 47.7 percent for July 2017, according to data from the Florida board of Bar examiners, and 62.1 percent for February 2018, the Tampa Bay Business Journal reported. Charlotte School of Law, which closed in August 2017, had a bar passage rate of 34.1 percent for July 2017, the Triangle Journal reported.

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