Law Schools

Student admitted by mistake can't compel law school to award LLM degree, appeals court says

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A law student mistakenly admitted to a master’s program for foreign law students can’t compel the Touro College Jacob B. Fuchsberg Law Center to award him an LLM degree, a New York appeals court has ruled.

The Appellate Division, First Department, ruled against LLM student Leodegario Salvador in a March 17 decision, the New York Law Journal (sub. req.) reports.

The appeals court said Salvador failed to correct the school’s mistaken belief that he had received his JD from a brick-and-mortar school, a condition of eligibility at Touro. As a result, he could not compel the school to award a degree and could not collect damages.

Salvador says he wasn’t informed until January 2012, a few days before graduation at Touro, that he wouldn’t be getting the LLM. The school said he was ineligible because he graduated from Novus University School of Law, which is an online law school.

Salvador had disclosed his graduation from the Novus University School of Law before admission, and supplied his transcripts after he began the program in the spring of 2011. In an admission interview with Daniel Derby, the director of the LLM program, Derby said a JD taken at a Philippine university is acceptable in the United States.

Salvador acknowledged a conversation with the Derby in September 2011 in which questions were raised about his status. Salvador and Touro differ over whether Salvador was told at that time that he was ineligible for the LLM degree. The school claims Derby told Salvador he couldn’t get an LLM and even offered him a refund.

The appeals court said Salvador contributed to his problem in two ways. First, he didn’t supply transcripts until months after his admission, which would have allowed Touro to discern the true nature of Novus. Second, he didn’t correct Derby’s apparent misapprehension that Novus was located in the Philippines.

Salvador’s admission was based on an omission of a material fact about the nature of the school that gave him a JD degree, the appeals court concluded. Under the law school’s rules, it had no obligation to award Salvador a degree.

Touro’s general counsel, Michael Newman, told the New York Law Journal that the decision “sets a very good precedent in that it holds students cannot be passive in determining whether a program they are applying to meets their needs.”

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