Defamation, Free Speech, Law Schools

Cooley Lawsuit Update: One Of The ‘Cooley Four’ Responds To The Law School’s Complaint

You see what happens, Cooley? You see what happens when you sue anonymous commenters on the internet?

We’re only on day two of Cooley’s reputation defense lawsuits, and it’s already obvious that the lawsuits have made it possible for more people to be more critical of the education offered by the school.

So far, the most damning statement about Cooley’s education has come from Cooley itself. Cooley president Don LeDuc said that the school filed these suits “to protect Cooley’s reputation and stand up for our students and more than 15,000 graduates.”

And yet, of those 15,000 graduates, when it came time to defend Cooley’s reputation, the school went with lawyers who were not educated at Cooley.

Not only did the school not use its own graduates for this work, one of the anonymous commenters the school is suing appears to be a recent Cooley graduate former Cooley Law student. I mean, with friends like these, right?

CORRECTION (7/16/11): It appears that this commenter did not graduate from Cooley, but instead studied there for a time before transferring out.

In any event, that defendant has decided to respond to the Cooley lawsuit…

First of all, in case you haven’t seen them, here are the two complaints Cooley Law has filed.

Here is the complaint against Kurzon Strauss, the firm that had been trying to drum up plaintiffs for a potential lawsuit against Cooley on Craigslist. Kurzon Strauss is a big boy and I’m sure they can defend themselves.

But I bet Kurzon won’t be using Cooley graduates for their legal defense. Heck, Cooley won’t even use Cooley graduates for its legal wranglings. The attorneys who prepared the complaint for Cooley are lawyers at Miller Canfield. Michael Coakley is the partner; he graduated from Michigan Law. Paul Hudson is the associate on the case; he’s a Georgetown man. Georgetown ranks #3 in the Cooley rankings, and Michigan ranks #12. I guess graduates of the second-best law school in the country according to Cooley (which is, of course, Cooley) were just too busy to help out their alma mater?

In any event, if any former Cooley students get legal work out of these proceedings, it’ll probably be the ones that Cooley has directly sued. Here’s Cooley’s complaint against the commenters.

Of course, if you are going to file a complaint against random internet commenters, you should expect an answer to be filed randomly on the internet. One of the four commenters Cooley sued has already posted a response on the JD Underground message board. The kid, Rockstar05, seems a bit worried; perhaps his time at Cooley has not yet paid off in the kind of disposable income needed to hire a lawyer to defend yourself against an entire law school. Here’s his response:

Dear all,

I believe I was very clear throughout my dated blog post that I was expressing my personal opinion. I would analogize my entire post reflecting my personal experience and personal views of the Thomas M. Cooley Law School to watching a movie on a Friday night then publishing online statements asserting that it was a poor investment of time, money, and certainly not worthwhil e– to boycott the movie and go ahead and watch that other movie that released the same Friday or any other movie. Do motion picture producers go out and publicly file lawsuits against each and every one who trashes their film? Let’s make the analysis more relevant and assume I flatter myself and liken my blog post to a giant public platform to express my views and opinions. Will Michael Bay go out and sue Roger Ebert, who is arguably one of the biggest critics in America, for trashing his movie?

As for distorted employment data, I have previously acknowledged that this is not a problem that is confined to Cooley alone. The ABA regulation of school reported employment data has been widely criticized by commentators, scambloggers, law professors, in addition to industry experts and analysts as being misleading. Common grounds for criticism include the idea of self-reported employment data by the law schools and notable deficiencies in the reporting in terms of not disclosing overall response rates and either having a breakdown or reflecting employment that actually requires a law degree. Since I concur with the opinions of these critics and publicize it, will this opinion and view subject me to another 200 law suits filed by each and every ABA approved law school?

I would like to make it clear that I never once addressed the quality of the education provided at Cooley but grounded my opinion based on its poor reputation as a fourth tier school, high attrition rates, unfriendly administrative policies, and most reprehensible of all, the school naming itself as the second best law school in the United States of America ahead of such notables such as: Yale, Stanford, Columbia, NYU, UofM, Chicago etc. In fact I would consider their subjective self-proclaimed and advertised ranking as the second best law school equally if not more “misleading” to the general public than my own personal opinion on Cooley not being a good option for law school. I’ll go out on a limb and speculate that my “misleading” claim would bear slightly more weight given that the most authoritative ranking of law schools published by the US News ranks Cooley closer to the bottom of the 200 schools as opposed to the top two law schools in the country.

The assertion by Thomas M. Cooley of its status as the second best law school in America is as ludicrous as asserting that I am the second smartest man in America. It would invite the type of backlash that Cooley experiences everywhere throughout the nation. Yet I would not go out and sue someone who has a different opinion, or in the extreme scenario, publicly lambasts me for my declaration and calls me the dumbest man in America.

I will also point out that I never made any allegations with regard to loan fraud or other specific factual claims regarding the Thomas M. Cooley Law School. I simply expressed my experience, views, opinions, and said that I would not recommend the school to anyone. Since I love use analogies (as I used several times in my disputed blog post to insult Cooley), this is similar to using a product then posting a negative review online telling everyone to beware and choose one of the competitors. Do you think McDonalds would come sue me if I said their Big Mac was a load of crap and that everyone should spend their money on a whopper or virtually any other hamburger on the market (or none if that was their only other option)?

Finally, I would like to add that Cooley has not attempted to contact me even once, either through e-mail or through a blog comment on this post. If they had done so, or perhaps even are willing to retract their lawsuit at this early stage, I would consider removing the post altogether. In terms of damages I’m not sure of the basis for Cooley’s request for relief in the amount of $25,000, let alone the special damages and/or actual malice that must be proven in order to successfully sue someone for defamation. I am not technologically savvy and any Joe Shmoe who is disgruntled about their experience and wants to inform others of essentially a “buyer beware” message can set up a site in less than 5 minutes to publicize his views. Truthfully, I almost forgot about my Weebly blog site until I received an e-mail from a journalist that hit my blackberry informing me that a lawsuit has been directed towards my website. Up until now this blog has had an average of under 30 hits a day for the past few months. Most of the users seem to actually ATTEND COOLEY THEMSELVES, so the damage and defamation would be similar to telling the Detroit Lions they suck. Is a $25,000 lawsuit necessary to vindicate my “damage” to Cooley by expressing my opinions regarding it. My two-sense on a two-bit site should be hardly anything that would publicly defame and damage a world-class institution like the Thomas M. Cooley Law school which can boast of being the second best law school in the country that is the world’s leader in top educational institutions.

Sincerely,

Rockstar05

If Rockstar05 is right, I do wonder why Cooley didn’t try to contact these internet commenters before trying to sue them. Why would the lawsuit be their first option? Why wouldn’t Cooley try to talk to these people and ask them to remove the statements?

It just seems that Cooley’s “reputation” would be better served by being the school that uses alternative dispute resolution as opposed to suing random internet commenters.

Earlier: Thomas Cooley Sues A Law Firm And Four ‘John Does’ On the Internet For Defamation

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