By Marc J. Randazza
I’m not much of a prestige whore, but I’m not blind to the reality that Thomas M. Cooley Law School is a standalone punchline within the legal profession. I’m familiar with its absurdly large class sizes, its questionable practice of culling the bottom few percent of its students each year to ensure high enough bar passage rates to maintain its tenuous grasp on ABA accreditation, and its bizarre self-ranking system that places an inordinate emphasis on library seating capacity. After all, “[t]o study, a student needs a place to sit”! (source at xiv.) Also, if the NFL based its draft selections on US News-style rankings – if they applied to football programs – only 30% of NFL quarterbacks would be on a roster! Think that sounds like Bullshit? It’s a major rationale for Cooley’s student recruiting. Still confused? Welcome to Cooley Law.
Cooley is an abysmal institution. And, as a blind squirrel eventually finds a nut, and a broken clock is right twice a day, Cooley does accidentally drop decent lawyers into the system on occasion. However, the general public’s esteem for lawyers would improve above cockroaches and approach Nigerian e-mail scammers if this dump were to close its doors — at all four(!) campuses.
And as evidence that Cooley really is the Righthaven of law schools — I present to you this lawsuit it filed against four critical John Doe defendants is even worse.
Naturally, those who climbed up out of the Cooley garbage disposal, only to find themselves with a mortgage-sized chunk of non-dischargable debt and the indelible resume stain of a Cooley law degree, were a bit pissed at the school. So, a number of people – presumably alumni, former students, or even current ones – began posting at a blog titled “THOMAS M. COOLEY LAW SCHOOL SCAM.” This is the basis for Cooley’s lawsuit.
If the four defendants had asked me for pre-publication review, I would have advised them against making some of their statements without presenting supporting evidence. But that poses an even larger issue for Cooley: What if the people it’s suing for claiming the law school’s employees conceal their identities, and are on the take from financial institutions, are correct? Is Cooley ready for discovery relating to the alleged investigation of “serious Title IV violations”?
Plain and simple, this is a SLAPP suit. If Cooley were in California, Oregon, Texas, or DC, the Doe defendants would be looking at a healthy payday from Cooley, and would have pro bono representation lined up around the block. Alternatively, if Rep. Steve Cohen had his way in enacting a federal anti-SLAPP statute, the defendants would have that protection at home. But because this action is pending in Michigan, the defendants have no such recourse. Hopefully they won’t have to retain Cooley grads to defend them!
It’s out of character for me to dump on law schools and their graduates out of prestige concerns. But Cooley truly is on a level all its own in embodying all that is wrong with legal education. At the very beginning of its Complaint, Cooley brags about having the largest enrollment and four campuses, as if this is a mark of accomplishment. Harvard and Georgetown have large law school enrollments – but they also send many of their students, and likely the preponderance of them, onto gainful employment – or employment period.
Can Cooley say that more than half of its graduates in any given year are employed in the law, or at all? If someone is accusing your nationally mocked law school of being a scam, perhaps bringing a lawsuit over such allegations isn’t the best way to disprove them. The louder one screams about something, the more likely it is to be the truth – and allegations of “lur[ing]” students to a school so they may be “prey[ed]” upon isn’t something that should be dignified, let alone potentially substantiated, with a lawsuit — if it’s untrue.
Even if the allegations against Cooley are false — so what? They’re anonymous comments on a blog that are not going to be heralded as being immutable reality. If the comments are true, then this is the dumbest thing Cooley could ever do. Considering how many members of Cooley’s faculty are school alumni, though, is it any surprise nobody advised the school otherwise?
This lawsuit is a heinous crime against free expression. May an even worse pox than the one currently afflicting it befall that institution for turning the courts into an instrument to beat down free speech and censor the reality that everyone – including many jobless and hopeless Cooley alumni – knows to be true: Cooley sucks.
Read the Complaint.