Arizona Summit sues ABA, 3rd for-profit InfiLaw school to do so

Law Schools

On Thursday, Arizona Summit Law School was the third InfiLaw school to sue the American Bar Association in a month, arguing that due process rights were violated before and after the 2017 decision to put the for-profit school on probation.

The lawsuit, filed in the Arizona U.S. District Court, asks the court to set aside the ABA’s adverse findings and specific remedial actions, declare that the decisions were arbitrary and capricious, and grant an injunction prohibiting the ABA from applying or enforcing various standards against the law school.

Barry Currier, managing director of ABA Accreditation and Legal Education, was not available for comment at press time. In a May 16 statement released after Florida Coastal School of Law and the now-defunct Charlotte School of Law filed similar lawsuits against the ABA, Currier wrote that the accreditation process provides “meaningful opportunities” for law schools to establish that they are in compliance with the standards.

“Courts have regularly upheld the ABA’s law school accreditation process. We will continue to follow our established procedures and expect to be successful in any future litigation challenging the actions of the council,” the statement read.

The council placed Arizona Summit on probation in March 2017. Among the standards Arizona Summit was found to be out of compliance with were:

    • 301(a), which states that law schools must have a rigorous program to prepare students to pass a bar exam and practice law.

    • 308(a), which deals requires law schools to “adopt, publish and adhere to” sound academic standards.

    • 309(b), which addresses academic support to give students a “reasonable opportunity” to complete their studies and become lawyers.

Also,the law school was found to be out of compliance with various parts of Section 501, which addresses admissions requirements.

Like the Charlotte School of Law and Florida Coastal actions, Arizona Summit is represented by Paul D. Clement, a former U.S. solicitor general in the George W. Bush administration, who is now a Kirkland & Ellis partner; Viet D. Dinh, another Kirkland partner who served as an assistant attorney general during same administration, and Christopher Bartolomucci, a Kirkland partner who served as White House associate counsel to President George W. Bush and was associate special counsel to the U.S. Senate Whitewater Committee.

And like the other two lawsuits, Arizona Summit argues that the ABA’s accreditation standards are “arbitrary and capricious” regarding its use of bar passage data to find that it was out of compliance. The complaint states that the law school is in compliance with Standard 316, a rule that deals with bar passage rates. Florida Coastal and Charlotte School of Law made similar arguments.

With the current version of Standard 316, there are various ways a law school can be in compliance, and no accredited law school has ever been out of compliance with the rule, Currier told the council at the October 2016 meeting in a discussion to tighten the standard.

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. Florida Coastal’s pass rate 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.

According to a news release on behalf of Arizona Summit, the ABA denied the law school due process as it in good faith tried to demonstrate compliance with the standards. The action also alleges that the council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar was under pressure from the Obama administration’s Department of Education to target for-profit schools or risk losing its accreditation authority.

“The ABA’s accreditation standards inherently are vague, indeterminate, and subject to manipulation. They constitute an open invitation for subjectivity, bias, and double standards in their application—abuses that we have experienced firsthand and are precisely what due process protects against,” Don Lively, president of Arizona Summit, said in the news release. “Compounding the abuse is the ABA’s refusal to provide any specific guidance on what a school found out of compliance must do to re-establish compliance.”

The law school appeared in front of the council May 10, the same day that Florida Coastal filed its complaint against the ABA. Charlotte School of Law filed its complaint May 15. Unlike Arizona Summit or Charlotte School of Law, Florida Coastal has not been placed on probation by the ABA. It has been found to be out compliance with various standards regarding admissions and academic support. Its last hearing was in March 2018.

According to Arizona Summit’s lawsuit, the accreditation committee found that it was out of compliance with various standards in December 2016. After the March 2017 probation decision by the council, the accreditation committee discussed Arizona Summit and other law schools again in September 2017. It concluded in October that Arizona Summit should remain on probation because it was still out of compliance with 301(a), 309(b), 501(b) and Interpretations 501-1 and 501-2. The committee also said it had “reason to believe” Arizona Summit was not in compliance with Standard 202(a), which mandates that a law school’s current and anticipated financial resources must be sufficient to be in compliance with the standards and carry out a legal education program.

When the committee met again in January and April of 2018, according to the lawsuit, it again found the school to be out of compliance with Standard 202. The complaint argues that the committee did not give an explanation for its finding, or state what the law school could do to come into compliance with the standard.

According to the law school’s Standard 509 Information Report for 2017, its median LSAT score was148, and it had a total of 199 students. Out of 151 graduates from 2017, 52 had long-term, full-time jobs that required JDs, and 23 had JD-advantage positions, according to the school’s employment summary. Full-time tuition at the law school is $45,354 annually, according to its website.


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Trump questions need for immigration trials, says system is ‘corrupt’ and will be changed

Immigration Law

President Donald Trump/Frederic Legrand – COMEO (Shutterstock.com).

President Donald Trump said the immigration system is “corrupt” and questioned the need for trials.

In an interview with Fox News that aired Thursday,” Trump said the United States has “the worst immigration laws in the whole world” and he wanted to get rid of the system of “catch and release.” He also said the United States is essentially the only country with judges considering immigration cases.

Fox News and CNN have stories.

“Other countries have—it’s called security people, people that stand there and say you can’t come in,” Trump said. “We have thousands of judges and they need thousands of more judges. The whole system is corrupt. It’s horrible. So you need thousands of judges based on this crazy system. Whoever heard of a system where you put people through trials? Where do these judges come from? You know a judge is a very special person. How do you hire thousands of people to be a judge?

“So, it’s ridiculous. We’re going to change the system, we have no choice for the good of our country.”

According to the Washington Post, there were 334 immigration judges as of mid-April.

See also:

NBC News: “Fact Check: Trump’s misleading claims about ‘catch and release’ “


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Defunct former firm of Stormy Daniels’ lawyer is ordered to pay $10M to ex-partner

Law Firms

MIchael Avenatti/JStone (Shutterstock.com).

The defunct former law firm of Stormy Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, has been ordered to pay $10 million to a onetime partner who claimed the it failed to pay him money owed for legal work.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Catherine Bauer issued the order of judgment on Tuesday after the former firm, Eagan Avenatti, missed a deadline to make a $2 million payment under an agreement to pay $4.85 million to resolve the pay claims of former partner Jason Frank, report the Los Angeles Times, Law360 and Bloomberg News. Avenatti himself had personally guaranteed the $4.85 million.

Frank had filed a motion to reopen the bankruptcy and enter judgment for the full $10 million when he did not receive the $2 million payment. The case was previously in arbitration, but two days before Avenatti was scheduled to testify, a Florida creditor filed a petition to place Eagan Avenatti into involuntary bankruptcy over an unpaid invoice of $28,700, according to a suit filed by Frank against the law firm last week.

A federal prosecutor told Bauer during Tuesday’s hearing that Eagan Avenatti also owes $440,000 in back taxes, penalties and interest that was supposed to have been paid last week. The firm had previously made an initial payment of $1.5 million under an agreement to pay $2.4 million, according to the Times. Avenatti has said the unpaid taxes are the fault of a payroll company.

Avenatti is representing Daniels, and adult-films star, in a suit against President Donald Trump that seeks to void a confidentiality agreement.

Avenatti said Eagan Avenatti has no ties to the Daniels case.

“Irrelevant. Overblown. Sensational reporting at its finest. No judgment against me was issued. Who cares?” he wrote in an email to Law360.


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Trump pardons late boxer Jack Johnson, convicted for transporting white woman across state lines

Criminal Justice

Jack Johnson/Library of Congress via Wikimedia Commons.

President Donald Trump granted a rare posthumous pardon to the first black heavyweight boxing champion, Jack Johnson, in a case in which he was convicted of transporting a white woman across state lines more than 100 years ago.

Trump pardoned Johnson on Thursday, report the Associated Press, the New York Times, USA Today, Fox News and the Washington Post. Johnson died in 1946 at 68.

It is the third posthumous pardon ever granted, according to USA Today.

Johnson had been convicted in 1913 for violating a law that makes it illegal to transport women across state lines for prostitution, debauchery or other immoral purposes. The woman was white, as were the jurors who convicted Johnson. She had worked as a prostitute but was in a relationship with Johnson, according to the Times.

Among those joining Trump for the announcement were actor Sylvester Stallone and several heavyweight boxing champions. Trump had tweeted last month that he was considering the pardon after Stallone told him about the case.

Congressional leaders have also sought the pardon, including U.S. Sen. John McCain. R-Ariz.


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Lawsuit claims Texas criminal appeals judge fired secretary for criticizing GOP on Facebook

First Amendment

NIP Photography/Shutterstock.com.

A former secretary for a judge on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals claims she was fired because of Facebook posts that criticized President Donald Trump as well as other Republican politicians.

Olga Zuniga claims her First Amendment rights were violated when she was fired by Judge Kevin Yeary, who was elected to the state’s top criminal court in 2014 as a Republican, report the Austin American-Statesman and the Texas Tribune. Zuniga says the posts were made as a private citizen and not as part of her job duties.

According to the May 22 suit, Yeary found Zuniga’s Facebook profile in 2016 and called her into his office to counsel her about the posts. He continued to review her posts the next year and expressed disapproval of posts related to political issues.

Last September, Yeary found Zuniga’s posts criticizing Texas politicians on immigration issues as well as Trump, the suit says. She was fired two weeks later.

Yeary had fought Zuniga’s application for unemployment benefits, the suit said. He allegedly submitted statements to the Texas Workforce Commission that said her Facebook posts used “vulgar” language and “had a distinct political edge” indicating political biases.

Zuniga had worked for the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals for 14 years. Her suit says she had “strong, positive feedback” on job performance before her firing.


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