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Law School Amplifies Critics Through SLAPP Suit 123

Posted by timothy
from the who-does-number-two-work-for? dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Michigan's Thomas M. Cooley Law School recently filed a lawsuit that appears to be boomeranging in the worst possible way. A little-noticed pseudonymous blogger respectfully disagreed with Cooley's self-awarded number-2 ranking, nationwide (well, perhaps not so respectfully), and had a few other choice things to say. So, Cooley went ahead and hired some lawyers (who had graduated from Georgetown and the University of Michigan) to file a lawsuit to unmask the blogger. And EFF cooperating attorney John Hermann got involved. "
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Law School Amplifies Critics Through SLAPP Suit

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  • by ArchieBunker (132337) on Monday August 08, 2011 @08:35PM (#37028920) Homepage

    Can someone please make sense of that summary. All I can gather is a law school is suing a blogger from Georgetown?

    • Re:What? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) on Monday August 08, 2011 @08:40PM (#37028954)

      No; Cooley hired lawyers who had graduated from Georgetown and Michigan. (Both excellent schools.) They did this to go after a blogger who was claiming something bad about Cooley. The poster is implicitly pointing out that they did not trust Cooley graduates to bring their lawsuit.

      To be fair, I would much prefer GULC (Georgetown) or Michigan grads. Georgetown's great for practicality, depth of curriculum, non-profit work, and DC connectedness. Michigan is great for Academia, just a notch behind Yale, really, and more like Yale than Harvard. Both have great students.

      • Re:What? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by sunderland56 (621843) on Monday August 08, 2011 @09:26PM (#37029160)
        All schools have great students. All schools also have lousy students. If I needed a lawyer, I'd hire a great student, not one from some particular school.

        Yes, if you are law school X, you might want to hire alumni for your legal matters - but more as a part of marketing than anything else. Oh, and avoiding bad press. I've never heard of Cooley before, but now my first impression is that they are idiots.
      • Just a notch behind Yale? Are you using the same rating system that Cooley was using? You know, created by Cooley for Cooley. Maybe what you are referencing is by Michigan for Michigan. Or are you using some standard rating system? I have no doubts about the accuracy of your statement... IANAL or a Law student. I just read the article and know what Cooley did so I don't know who to trust. I have to ask after reading and article like that one if you are pulling a Cooley or quoting from some standardized rati
        • by _0xd0ad (1974778)

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/University_of_Michigan_Law_School [wikipedia.org]

          Michigan Law School consistently ranks among the highest-rated law schools in the United States. It was ranked third in the initial U.S. News & World Report [wikipedia.org] law school rankings [wikipedia.org] in 1987, only below Yale [wikipedia.org] and Harvard [wikipedia.org], and is one of seven schools never to appear outside the magazine's top 10. Michigan Law is also one of the "T14" law schools [wikipedia.org], that is, schools that have consistently ranked within the top 14 law schools since U.S. News began publishing rankings.

          • by ecgrimm (2432748)
            Just to be exceptionally clear, the University of Michigan Law School, is a different law school than Thomas M. Cooley Law School. Cooley is not in any way affiliated with the University of Michigan, although Cooley recently did open up yet another campus in Ann Arbor.
    • Re:What? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Alien Being (18488) on Monday August 08, 2011 @08:49PM (#37028994)

      Cooley, a law school I've never heard of, claimed to be the 2nd highest rated law school in the country. They got pissed when someone called BS. They hired lawyers from a couple of well-known law schools and sued the guy. This lead to us average joes hearing about it.

      In other words, a bunch of scumbag cunts are writhing around like snakes in a pit trying to kill each other and a crowd is gathering.

      Real Americans should pitch in by gathering up other cunt lawyers and throwing them into the same pit. That way we can burn them all with less impact on the environment.

      I am not a lawyer and i would be very offended if anyone claimed that i am.

      • by poetmatt (793785)

        they (Cooley) are also the ones who make the rating system in the first place. Thus, the issue, and why people are calling BS on cooley (and quite appropriately so).

        • they (Cooley) are also the ones who make the rating system in the first place. Thus, the issue, and why people are calling BS on cooley (and quite appropriately so).

          FTFA (emphasis mine):

          Cooley's own rankings explanation says that they got rid of pesky things like "reputation"

          If Cooley developed the ranking system, and they've removed reputation from how schools are ranked, how can they sue someone for saying something might affect their reputation?

          • From parent comment:

            they (Cooley) are also the ones who make the rating system in the first place. Thus, the issue, and why people are calling BS on cooley (and quite appropriately so).

            From TFA:

            Meanwhile, it appears that some others were similarly flabbergasted by Cooley Law presenting itself as the 2nd highest ranked law school

            What sucks more than making up your own popularity contest? Losing it.

            That's kind of sad. How bad must you suck if you can't self-delude your way into the top slot?

            Maybe this "la

        • by gstoddart (321705)

          they (Cooley) are also the ones who make the rating system in the first place. Thus, the issue, and why people are calling BS on cooley (and quite appropriately so).

          And, just to be clear ... this is a rating system that nobody BUT Cooley is using.

          So, a not-so-well-known law school (which isn't considered the second best law school in the US by anybody else) came up with a rating system that makes themselves sound like the second best law school in the country.

          Various people called bullshit, and the law scho

        • Re:What? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Capt. Skinny (969540) on Monday August 08, 2011 @11:43PM (#37029816)

          To summarize the parent link, some current student begins his review by praising Cooley's liberal admissions policy and explaining that Cooley will take you if no one else will. He goes on to complain that the grading system is severe, A's and B's are "hard to come by", and the school flunks out students in their first, second, or third year. "To stay afloat and not flunk is difficult once you get accepted," he complains.

          Well, damn. The kid finally found a law school to accept his mediocre ass, and now he's complaining because the academic standards aren't as lax as the admission standards. IT'S LAW SCHOOL, kid. I think he might be better suited to a community college.

          • Re:What? (Score:4, Interesting)

            by LordLimecat (1103839) on Tuesday August 09, 2011 @12:51AM (#37030040)

            There appears to be a lot more to his complaint, such as

            Cooley registrar's office personnel and professors are known to prolong or refuse to give letters of good standing and recommendations to students seeking to leave-like blocking a professional swimmer wearing a life jacket from jumping off the Titanic

            He also indicates an incredibly high attrition rate, and a very low bar passage rate. In other words, youre likely to flunk out, and if you dont, youre still unlikely to pass the bar. That does sound like a rather awful university. I think he cited 60% attrition rate and 40-50% bar passage rate (so 15-20% of people who enter the school will actually be able to practice).

            • by Kijori (897770)

              If a university is willing to take people who are not deemed qualified enough to gain entry to a different law school, does it really indicate that the university is "awful" if a high percentage of those do not pass?

              • by Anonymous Coward

                It shows they don't know a crap student when they interview one.

                Think of staff turnover at a company.

                It hires liberally from an external company, but finds that huge numbers (80%+) are sacked during the first year because they're unable to do the job.

                Is the external company putting candidates up for employment that are no good a reflection on JUST the candidates?

                No.

                • by Anonymous Coward

                  Total failure of an analogy. Allow me to provide a much more accurate analogy.

                  Company A needs employees.

                  Company A contracts with Company B to find applicants.

                  Company B accepts any and all resumes from anyone who would submit one.

                  Company B then weeds out 80% or so of the applicants, passing the remaining 20% on to Company A.

                  Company A hires all the applicants that Company B passed on to them, all of which are exceptional workers.

              • by Anonymous Coward

                If they aren't clear up-front about the students' chances of being successful with their goal, yes, I'd call that "awful". It's one thing to offer an opportunity to students that might not be admitted in other universities. Sometimes under-performing students can rise to the challenge if they are given the chance. But you have to tell them what to expect, and tell them that they aren't going to make it if they don't get off their butts and work harder than they have traditionally thought was necessary.

              • by Anonymous Coward

                Since the service those students payed for is being trained to practice law, their percentage of accepted students who pass the bar is a pretty good metric for how well the school provides that service.

                Now if their admission standards are lax than they may be aiming for the "safety school" niche in which case it's not terrible that they have a poor success rate, because they give opportunities tot hose who wouldn't otherwise have them. However that doesn't really excuse the fact that they're clearly not pre

      • Re:What? (Score:5, Funny)

        by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Monday August 08, 2011 @10:17PM (#37029426) Homepage Journal

        In other words, a bunch of scumbag cunts are writhing around like snakes in a pit trying to kill each other and a crowd is gathering.

        See, now that's how you write a summary.

      • by sgtrock (191182) on Monday August 08, 2011 @11:07PM (#37029688)
        From the archives [schlockmercenary.com]:

        Massey:Our case made it through the courts in record time, Captain. It's a mixed bag, though. I've got good news and bad news.

        Tagon:Bad news first. That gives me time to prime my weapons if necessary.

        Massey:Right.

        Narrator:Massey is a victim of a vailed attempt at mind control. As a result, he can see the mind of his would-be masters, but they cannot do anything about it.

        Massey:The bad news is that although we won, the partnership collective refuses to honor the judgement. We'll probably never see a dime.

        Massey:The good news is that the judge was feeling pretty vengeful when she assessed punitive damages. Agents of the court may destroy up to two billion kilocreds in the collective's assets, and that comes out to about one million attorney drones.

        Tagon:Tell me how somebody else's revenge is good news for me?

        Massey:We've been named as agents of the court. We get a bounty on every attorney we kill.

        Tagon:Oh yes. Oh my, oh my, oh yes...

        • How can it be an obligatory reference when few people will have ever heard of Schlock Mercencary? An obligatory reference is something from Futurama, Simpsons, Star Trek, Star Wars, etc.

      • Wait, here's what I got out of the summary:

        Thomas M. Cooley Law School, claiming to be the 2nd highest rated law school in the country, is accused of lying. They got pissed because *none of their own graduates* were good enough to defend them. So then they went for the swoosh by hiring graduates from ... wait for it ... *two other schools* ... thus cementing the oppositions case that either A, they are at best Third Best in the country, or B, they purposely spent additional money hiring substandard lawyers

        • It's obviously a clever ploy on Cooley's part. When they lose the lawsuit, they can say that it was because the lawyers they hired from other schools were not good enough. They can then postulate how well they would have won had they hired Cooley grads.

    • by belg4mit (152620)

      I conquer, the editors here is worse and worse yearly.

    • Well, Archie, several issues are packed in there rather tightly, and I have to confess that it was intentional to pack a lot in. This was done with the expectation that the average Slashdot reader will be up to the task presented. Many Slashdot readers seem to "get it" without quite so much difficulty, but let me help unpackage some of the issues for you. Before I begin, let me say that I have many valued friends and professional colleagues who attended Cooley and who secured their law degrees from this
    • 1. Cooley Law School claims to be second-ranked law school in the country after only Harvard. The fact is that when they were last ranked, they were very near the bottom.

      2. Someone called them on their bullshit. They decided to sue.

      3. In bringing the lawsuit, rather than hiring lawyers from their own graduates, they hired lawyers who graduated from Georgetown University and University of Michigan, thereby demonstrating that even they don't believe their own bullshit.

  • hmmm (Score:5, Informative)

    by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworld@nOSpaM.gmail.com> on Monday August 08, 2011 @08:54PM (#37029012) Homepage
    As a little background, Cooley is ranked by US News and World Report as one of the worst law schools in the country; it's reputation among lawyers is pretty much the same, I believe. I've read the lawsuit and actually they probably have a decent case against 3 of the 4 defendants if the statements they made were true (very specific statements about them being under investigation, for example, are not protected as opinion). As for hurting their reputation, in my opinion their reputation is sufficiently bad that this lawsuit isn't really going to make it any worse. Kind of a funny side note, Cooley doesn't like that reputation so they created their own rankings system using supposedly "objective" standards where they ranked themselves #2, or ahead of every other law school in the country (including Yale, which is generally considered to be the best, noticeably outranking even Harvard). The standards they picked, of course, are ones that will rank them highly even though they don't really have anything to do with academic excellence (number of students, number of books in the library, number of seats in the library (seriously), total area of the law school).
    • Reminds me of N. Korea ranking themselves as #2 in the world for happiness [ynetnews.com].
    • by fermion (181285)
      I grew up within a few miles of three major law schools. One is the top 100 of the nation, one is a solid tier two school, and the other slightly less so. When I grew up I lived in a high rise that happened to be close to the not so great law school and got to know many students. My impression was this school served people who could not get into the better law schools, but who had the money, or could borrow the money, to pay the tuition which is greater than would be paid at other tier 2 colleges.

      So my

      • by nomadic (141991)
        A lot of prospective law students have an overwhelming sense of confidence -- "I'm going to make top 10%, I'm going to get into an elite law firm, I'm going to have no problem passing the bar," etc., even if they have been unsuccessful in their previous academic career and only could get into a Cooley or similar school. It's a sense of infallibility that frequently wears off by the third year, leaving people freaked out and finally (after incurring 200k in debt) realistic. A 50% bar passage rate should be
        • You are quite right. Much the same dynamic is at play, in law school admissions, as in American Idol auditions. Moreover, law schools charge a lot more for tuition, than networks do for "reality" show auditions. Price signals about the actual market demand for legal services, do not get translated very well, all the way back up the pipeline, to the point at which individuals decide whether to attend law school.
          • by nomadic (141991)
            Yep, they don't get translated very well because you have unemployed 21 year olds with no credit rating being given 200k in government subsidized loans.
        • I do agree but what do you mean by "I could train anyone?"
          I would like to subscribe to your school; how much does this training cost?

          • by nomadic (141991)
            Alright, not "anyone," but definitely any reasonably intelligence college graduate who knows nothing about the law. The bar prep books have all the info needed.
          • by HiThere (15173)

            Given "I could train anyone in three months", I would guess that he's a lawyer, and he would charge you his normal rates. And that he would bill 24 hours/day. And that you would be constrained to not do anything but train (and a minimum of feeding and hygiene).

            Also that you would only learn how to pass the bar exam. He didn't promise anything else. E.g., he didn't promise to make you a decent lawyer, and in fact indicated that this wasn't required to pass the bar exam. This is known as teaching to the

      • but a law degree is not like other academic degrees. It is not simply awarded by the faculty. One has to meet external standards.

        No. Passing the Bar is irrelevant to graduating from Law School with the appropriate degree.

        You can get the degree without passing the Bar, and you can pass the Bar without getting the Degree.

        Note that passing the Bar is the requirement to practice law in the USA. Law school is not required. Though getting a job as a lawyer tends to require a degree from a more-or-less presti

        • by nomadic (141991)
          To be licensed in almost every state you need a JD or LLB from an ABA-accredited school. There are maybe 3 or 4 states at most that let you practice just with the bar.
        • There are only 5 jurisdictions that allow you to enter the bar without law school in the US now. California, surprisingly, has the most well-developed program to become a lawyer without law school, and that requires 4 years of study (basically free labor) under a practicing lawyer or judge.

  • by headhot (137860) on Monday August 08, 2011 @08:54PM (#37029014) Homepage

    If the school were any good, wouldn't it sue with its own graduates instead of those from highly respected schools?

  • I had a CPU in my last computer called SLAPP
    • Re:SLAPP? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Bieeanda (961632) on Monday August 08, 2011 @09:16PM (#37029106)
      Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. It's an intimidation tactic, threatening to bury the target under an insurmountable mass of legal fees even before the suit can go ahead.

      Honestly, I think the term's fallen out of use because so goddamn many suits are the result of this tactic now.

  • Nobody's posted this yet so it's worth a link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Streisand_effect [wikipedia.org] . Basically, when your complaint about a tiny amount of publicity attracts a huge amount of publicity, you've made a mistake.
  • The google ad on this page right now is for Thomas M. Cooley Law School. It links to one of their student recruitment pages. No joke. I wonder if google needs to adjust their ad selection algorithm? I clicked on the link a couple of times just to pour a little salt in the wound.

  • Also any contract that you sign can not brake the law or force you to have to rights in a cases of fraud.

    • Actually, you indeed, can sign away your 1st Amendment rights. You can sign a paper promising to travel to a country that does not have 1st amendment (the failure of which may be subject to massive damages of some sort), and voila!
    • Are you kidding in your subject line? Signing away first amendment rights is a common practice. Security Clearances, employment agreements, settlement agreements, nondisclosure agreements, all kinds of things let you sign away your rights. (Though consult a lawyer if it matters to you in a particular situation, obviously.)

      • by snowgirl (978879)

        Are you kidding in your subject line? Signing away first amendment rights is a common practice. Security Clearances, employment agreements, settlement agreements, nondisclosure agreements, all kinds of things let you sign away your rights. (Though consult a lawyer if it matters to you in a particular situation, obviously.)

        This is spot on. The issue is that one cannot be forced to forfeit their 1st amendment rights, however, if one willingly and voluntarily signed a contract to forfeit their 1st amendment rights in some way, then that contract can be enforced in court.

        Now, there are certain unconscionable conditions for contracts that you cannot do. You cannot contract to consent to slavery, as well you cannot consent to be intentionally killed. (You can however consent to be involved in potentially lethal physical combat, so

    • Also any contract that you sign can not brake the law

      Of course not. Contracts don't have feet and laws don't have brakes.

  • I automatically think "Cooley High Law School" http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0072820/ [imdb.com] .

    Looks like my knee-jerk reaction isn't too far from the actual academic prowess of this institution.

  • by Gordo_1 (256312) on Tuesday August 09, 2011 @12:42AM (#37030014)

    For a good laugh, have a look at the blatantly cherry-picked ranking system they built for themselves:
    http://www.cooley.edu/rankings/search/report-byschool.php [cooley.edu]

    Now select Harvard, Yale or whatever you think are actual good schools and do the comparison... Well, whaddaya know! Cooley comes out first overall, as well first in such important metrics as:

    * Foreign National Enrollment
    * Part-Time Faculty
    * First-Year Section Size
    * Library Hours per Week with Professional Staff
    * Library Seating Capacity
    * Law School Square Footage Excluding Library
    * Total Law School Square Footage
    * Number of States in which Graduates Employed

    Here's the kicker: Percentage of Graduates Employed is only 78.8%, meaning you are roughly twice as likely as the average person in this country to be unemployed after having graduated from their program! But the median of all their useless metrics puts them at number one, because their ranking system gives equal weight to Library Seating Capacity as Percentage of Graduates Employed.

    • Hi!

      You appear to be a "A little-noticed pseudonymous blogger respectfully disagreeing with Cooley's self-awarded number-2 ranking, (well, perhaps not so respectfully), and have a few other choice things to say.!"

      So let me get this straight, are they in fact stumbling onto the most important free speech case of the decade? Forget the S-Effect laughter part, did they accidentally attack the entire concept of rationally expressed pseudonymous dissent on the internet? So if they lose this case, are they handing

    • by nomadic (141991)
      Here's the kicker: Percentage of Graduates Employed is only 78.8%, meaning you are roughly twice as likely as the average person in this country to be unemployed after having graduated from their program! But the median of all their useless metrics puts them at number one, because their ranking system gives equal weight to Library Seating Capacity as Percentage of Graduates Employed.

      I can guarantee you that this number is vastly, dramatically, overstated, and includes graduates working at Applebee's and

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