Suing a school for giving you bad grades seems ludicrous. On the other hand, there’s something respectable about filing a 60-paragraph complaint in response to a law school telling you that you’ve failed Legal Writing and Civil Procedure. It’s kind of meta when you think about it.
The crux of the story is that a the law school demanded that a 3L retake CivPro II: Electric Boogaloo because he got a D the first time around. This interfered with his plans for his 3L year, so he decided to take them to court. In the process, every complaint he has about the school worked its way into the filing.
Which law school is getting sued?
It’s Thomas Jefferson School of Law, so I guess we’re using the term “law school” loosely.
Jackson Millikan is a 3L at Thomas Jefferson who spent his summer — according to the allegations — kicking ass and taking names at the Washington State Attorney General’s Office. He’d hoped this would overshadow the troubles of his earlier law school days, but when he got back to school, he found that TJSL was still hellbent on its arcane policy of only graduating students who’ve “passed Civil Procedure.”
Let’s go to the complaint to see how Millikan arrived in this predicament:
Mr. Millikan matriculated at TJSL over three other admissions offers because of particular professor and the belief that the new school building was a sign of rising status.
I’m assuming it was Yale, Harvard, and Stanford.
Millikan started doubting the rigors of the school early on:
It was also during orientation week that Mr. Millikan first heard of the policy whereby TJSL defers to the professors as to whether the Socratic Method is used. Though initially disappointed, Mr. Millikan fatefully rationalized that this must be a cutting edge policy consistent with the cutting edge architecture of the TJSL building in which he then sat.
Why is he so obsessed with the building? More specifically, why is he so obsessed with the idea that the building reflects the substantive quality of the law school? It tends to redeem the mentality behind Lego Law School.
Millikan makes it clear in his complaint that he loves the Socratic Method and has no tolerance for other forms of instruction, at one point calling them “‘smiley face’ pedagogy.” And for good reason, because Millikan’s best grades came in the more draconian classroom settings, including his Contracts class where he literally broke down a door to get to taking the exam (yes, this is actually in the complaint).
I’m not one to take sides in the Socratic Method debate. There’s merit in most pedagogical methods and the absolutist stance of Socratic Method advocates — that the only acceptable form of instruction was invented roughly 2400 years ago — seems silly. But one form of instruction definitely seems dubious. I call it the Hand-Out-The-Answers Method:
During final exam in Business Associations, Mr. Millikan had to stand up and approach the proctor because the two large exam rooms full of students had been given the answer key instead of the exam. Although the students had had between five and ten minutes with the answer key before the sole individual, Mr. Millikan, finally stood up, the administration decided to simply collect them and then pass them out again without the answers circled. Mr. Millikan, nonetheless, managed a B grade.
Tight ship they’re running out there.
After a generally successful second year, Millikan was told he had to retake Civil Procedure II. Millikan then went to his summer job. Having heard nothing more on the subject of “you have to pass Civil Procedure,” he returned to school:
Given Mr. Millikan’s successes in both academics and the practice of law, he took the familiar TJSL silence to mean acquiescence in suspending the reenrollment policy. He began registering for 3L classes. Since class registration occurs on the internet, the process is ongoing with strategic registration and wait-listing, then dropping and reregistering, etc…. The process can last until a full week after class has already begun. Mr. Millikan was automatically reenrolled in the Civil Procedure class. It did not fit the schedule he had already begun to build. Moreover, he had been enrolled with the same professor.
Perhaps the “silence” was more about the summer than TJSL deciding to give up. But you can’t blame him for hoping. It’s too bad that CivPro course was going to interfere with “Law and Surfing” or whatever they teach 3Ls at TJSL. In any event, Millikan dropped the course, the school froze him out, and he sued.
Back to the idea that this complaint is a postmodern response to the situation. If it weren’t for his demonstrated disdain for unconventional pedagogy, one would assume he wrote this as a means of challenging the course. You may quibble with the substance of his claims, but there’s nothing in the complaint that suggests he’s a failure at either civil procedure or legal writing.
And this case is important for Millikan because, as he puts it:
The censure has already done reputational harm, and should it culminate in failure to graduate, will prevent Mr. Millikan’s acceptance into any other law school. As rankings and public persona make abundantly clear, one cannot go much lower than TJSL.
We’re just mad we didn’t get cited for that point.
Millikan’s complaint in all its glory on the next page…