Law Schools, Plaintiffs Firms

BREAKING: Dismissal of Class Action Suit Against New York Law School Is Affirmed

In August, New York Law School (NYLS) was hit with a class action lawsuit over the school’s allegedly deceptive post-graduate employment data. The case was filed by plaintiffs’ lawyers Jesse Strauss and David Anziska. In October, NYLS filed a motion to dismiss that claim. In March, the lawyers ventured down to the New York Supreme Court to argue the merits of the case, and a little more than one week later, we broke the news that the suit had been dismissed by Judge Melvin Schweitzer. The plaintiffs’ lawyers vowed to appeal that decision, and today, we’ve got news on whether the Gomez-Jimenez v. NYLS suit will live to see another day.

What result? The dismissal of the class action lawsuit filed by Team Strauss/Anziska against NYLS over its allegedly deceptive employment statistics has been affirmed….

The decision, written by Associate Justice Rolando T. Acosta of the Appellate Division, First Department, is available here. It appears that Associate Justice Acosta DID NOT agree with Judge Schweitzer in that the plaintiffs were supposedly “sophisticated consumers,” and the rest of the appellate panel concurred:

We are not unsympathetic to plaintiffs’ concerns. We recognize that students may be susceptible to misrepresentations by law school. As such, “[t]his Court does not necessarily agree [with Supreme Court] that [all] college graduates are particularly sophisticated in making career or business decisions” (MacDonald, 2012 WL 2994107, at *10). As a result, they sometimes make decisions to yoke themselves and their spouses and/or their children to a crushing burden because the schools have made misleading representations that give the impression that a full time job is easily obtainable when in fact it is not.

At least Acosta, like Judge Gordon Quist — who dismissed the class action suit against Cooley Law — seems to be more in tune with reality. The final paragraph of the affirmance really drives home the main point, that law schools owe more to their students, both prospective and current, than what is currently being offered:

Given this reality, it is important to remember that the practice of law is a noble profession that takes pride in its high ethical standards. Indeed, in order to join and continue to enjoy the privilege of being an active member of the legal profession, every prospective and active member of the profession is called upon to demonstrate candor and honesty. This requirement is not a trivial one. For the profession to continue to ensure that its members remain candid and honest public servants, all segments of the profession must work in concert to instill the importance of those values. “In the last analysis, the law is what the lawyers are. And the law and the lawyers are what the law schools make them.” Defendant and its peers owe prospective students more than just barebones compliance with their legal obligations. Defendant and its peers are educational not-for-profit institutions. They should be dedicated to advancing the public welfare. In that vein, defendant and its peers have at least an ethical obligation of absolute candor to their prospective students.

As a tipster cleverly noted, it seems as though the appellate court has done nothing more than “spend a paragraph or two wagging its collective finger at NYLS for its lack of candor.” Some would suggest that Team Strauss/Anziska and the plaintiffs involved ought to accept this as a moral victory, but they’d rather see justice served. Here are some remarks we obtained from Jesse Strauss on today’s decision:

Jesse Strauss

We are looking at our options for an appeal. Our feeling is that the Court of Appeals has overall supervision of the legal profession in New York and we hope that they will hold NYLS, a member of the legal academy, responsible for the harm our clients, young lawyers, have suffered as a result of the law school’s “less than candid and incomplete” disclosures. Our profession and our clients deserve nothing less. We also feel strongly that the First Department got it wrong when it determined, as a matter of law, that NYLS’s “less than candid and incomplete” statements were not actionable as consumer fraud or common law fraud. That determination appears to conflict with well established precedent from the Court of Appeals.

This is disappointing news overall, but perhaps plaintiffs in these cases can take hope in the fact that at least one law school lawsuit, that of Alaburda v. Thomas Jefferson School of Law, has yet to be dismissed. That case is currently in the discovery phase, and all kinds of interesting tidbits have been unearthed, including a former employee’s allegation that she was ordered to falsify employment information for law graduates.

For now, we can only hope that the American Bar Association’s new Task Force on the Future of Legal Education decides to take action, and soon. Because really, hasn’t the ABA already waited long enough?

Gomez-Jimenez v. New York Law School [Decision: New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Dept.]
New York Law School Suit Dismissal Upheld by Appeals Court [Bloomberg]

Earlier: BREAKING: Class Action Lawsuit Against New York Law School Dismissed
The Law School Lawsuits Go to Court: How Did Team Strauss/Anziska Fare Against New York Law School?
The Latest News in the Law School Lawsuits
New York Law School Files Motion to Dismiss Suit Over Employment Data
Cooley Law and NYLS Hit With Class Action Lawsuits

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