Defamation, Law School Deans, Law Schools

Law Student Sues Law School For Implying He’s Litigious

Law schools have been sued before. Often, we here at ATL, applaud those efforts. It’s a David and Goliath undertaking to bring a school literally filled with lawyers to court.

But this lawsuit has a little less “heroic struggle” to it. Suing because a dean accused you of being too quick to accuse others of acting in bad faith? Maybe he hasn’t taken torts yet, because truth is a defense…

The Wake Forest University School of Law is named in a suit brought by student Daniel Skinner. Skinner’s beef arises from a letter he received last week from Suzanne Reynolds, Executive Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at Wake.

According to the complaint, the primary defamatory statement in the letter was:

“From my experience with you on this issue, if people disagree with you, you appear to assume that those persons are acting in bad faith and you accuse them of fraud and deceit.”

Skinner alleges, inter alia, that this is an attack on his professional judgment and fitness as a lawyer. And it does seem to imply that he’s quick to assume the worst and make wild accusations. Though so does filing a lawsuit over getting a letter with a little snark to it.

Hints to the source of Wake’s irritation with Skinner can be found at his blog, where Skinner makes the case for revoking Wake’s accreditation because it fails to keep track of student complaints. If true, this is a violation of ABA standards, though the blog doesn’t provide much evidence that it’s true.

He also complains that the school told students not to make the Princeton Review surveys a forum for minor kvetching, which he implies reflects a cover-up mentality. While this certainly seems a little douchey, that’s a warrant for outing the school on Above the Law, not stripping it of accreditation.

Oh, and he sent an email to the entire faculty calling for the removal of the Dean.

The complaint alleges that he was not punished for this, but warned that this violated the student handbook. Skinner characterizes this as defamatory because it implies that he could have been expelled.

Obviously we don’t have the full story based on the complaint alone, but this case certainly sounds less “Don Quixote, romantic hero” and more “Don Quixote, tilting at windmills.”

The full complaint is provided on the next page…

UPDATE: And check out our follow-up post.

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