Antitrust Law

Lawmaker to Mass. AG: Law Schools May Be Misusing Public Funds to Fight Competitor

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In a new escalation of an ongoing controversy about whether a non-ABA-accredited law school should merge with the University of Massachusetts, a state lawmaker is calling for an investigation of potential antitrust issues.

Three competitors of Southern New England School of Law may be misusing public funds to lobby against its potential marriage with UMass, says Rep. John Quinn in a letter to Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, reports South Coast Today (reg. req.). As he points out in the letter, Suffolk University Law School, for instance, gets $1.5 million in state aid.

Quinn also questions whether the three competitors (New England School of Law, Western New England School of Law and Suffolk), by spending six-figure sums on a joint lobbying campaign against the UMass-SNESL alliance and providing what he calls “distorted” information about SNESL’s finances, are “joining forces to ‘fix’ the market,” the newspaper reports.

He describes SNESL, in combination with UMass, as a “higher quality, more affordable competitor” and suggests that the opposition by the other three schools might violate federal and state fair trade laws. Both SNESL and UMass are in Quinn’s district.

If the proposed merger goes through, the newspaper reports, UMass would charge law students $23,565 a year, versus $38,500 at New England School of Law, $34,378 at Western New England and $39,550 at Suffolk.

A spokesman for a coalition that the three law schools have formed to oppose the SNESL merger did not immediately respond to a South Coast Today request for comment.

Additional coverage: “U Mass Prez Backs Plan to Create State’s 1st Public Law School” “Southern New England Law Dean Prepares for Battle over Merger Plan”

Boston Globe: “D.C. school’s lesson for Mass.”

Boston Globe: “State board hears law school debated”

Herald News: “Proponents, foes of UMass law school present arguments”

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