The best law school professors have practical experience that allows them to draw from personal memory to bring a lesson to life for students. One professor who often lectures students on their ethical obligations can now draw from her own experience to tell students about what happens when lawyers lie to federal judges to help clients perpetrate a fraud.
The irony is scrumptious.
You’d think that getting busted for lying to a judge and benchslapped silly would doom a law professor, but that’s premature. She’ll probably lose her job for failing as a professor first….
Professor Jill Dunn currently does her thang at Albany Law School. That thang, specifically, is serving as the Academic Success Director for the school, placing her in charge of a number of initiatives that boil down to “getting Albany students to pass the bar.” Albany sits at #132 in this year’s U.S. News ranking, in part due to deteriorating bar passage rates. (Albany also didn’t make the ATL Law School Rankings, which list the top 50 schools.)
Before taking on this role, Dunn worked in private practice, where she represented a trust set up by the Smith family. In 2004, David and Lynn Smith, a wealthy couple, set up a family trust to
shelter funds from the SEC provide for their children. The trust — for the kids, remember — included a provision to pay the parents a $490,000 annual payment starting in 2015. No big deal.
Except the SEC thought this was totally a big deal. When they moved in to seize the Smith family assets in 2010 when the feds figured out that the Smith family largesse resulted from a large-scale Ponzi scheme. It’s been called the biggest fraud in the history of the Northern District of New York, narrowly edging the time someone conned a guy out of a cow in Watertown. The trust was excluded from the seizure because Smith’s lawyers — including Jill Dunn, representing the Smith family trust — misled the judge about the existence of the agreement. The feds found out and were less than pleased.
Dunn, who ran for State Supreme Court back in 2009, was censured last week by the Committee on Professional Standards. She’d already gotten sanctioned by the federal court back in 2011 and ordered to pay back the $5,355 she received from the trust after she learned of the annuity agreement. Note, her sketchy legal maneuvering was exposed before she took on her position with Albany Law. While the students may just be learning about her past now, the administration was well aware. So don’t presume this scandal will force her out of Albany.
Meanwhile, her performance might. The hits keep on coming for Professor Dunn this week. The quarterback of Operation: Let’s Not Fail The Bar Miserably managed to see her charges fail miserably. The school admits that its New York bar pass rate declined from 81.5 percent to 79.8 percent — not a big dip, but not exactly an auspicious beginning for someone whose sole job is boosting bar passage. Worse, among Dunn’s initiatives as the Academic Success Director is personally teaching a course required for the bottom quarter of the Albany Law class intended to boost the bar pass rate (hence the legal ethics lectures). And you thought remedial classes were just for kids who start fires and Canadians. As it turns out, according to a tipster, half of the students who took her version of the “Leg Up Program!” managed to fail the bar. Indeed, from what we hear, only three failing Albany students were not in Professor Dunn’s class.
Sure she started with students in the lowest quarter of the class, but even the Jaguars are going to demand to see progress at the end of the year.
If you want to read the SEC v. Smith decision, it’s on the next page….