pageok
pageok
pageok
Apparent Trouble at Ave Maria Law School:

Mirror of Justice posts a letter from Ave Maria faculty members that suggests there are some extremely serious problems at the school. The letter is at times short on details, and is not individually signed; but Mark Sargent, dean at Villanova, passed it along, and another source I trust reports that the allegations are indeed quite credible.

I would of course be glad to post any response from the school itself, or from others.

John (mail):
I read the piece you linked to. How sad that the lawprofs are subject to the same vicissitudes as the working population generally--employees denied the "right" to participate in management! The boss won't talk! Can't use the business's equipment in activities that harm the business!

Having failed in their efforts, I don't understand why the faculty isn't simply leaving instead of whining.
5.1.2007 2:21pm
Jeremy T:
I agree with John's analysis at this point in time. The faculty does not make a convincing case.

You'd think a bunch of law professors would actually have facts to back up their allegations, but they are rather sorely lacking. This might be for a number of reasons that aren't the fault of the faculty, but still, I could not conclude based upon reading the letter who is in the right or in the wrong, only that there is a stark disagreement.

I definitely disagree, however, with the faculty's position that it's offensive to be required to use work resources in a way that is related to work and doesn't harm the employer. The suggestion to the contrary is, frankly, batty.
5.1.2007 2:26pm
Henry679 (mail):
I'm sure this fine law school will now leap to the top of the Bush administration's list for grabbing candidates (sic) for the DOJ.
5.1.2007 2:27pm
wm13:
You know, if your employer moves the corporate headquarters (or the assembly plant, for that matter), you have two choices: move yourself or find a new job. What you don't have is a right to vote on what your employer does. I don't see why law professors should have some different set of rights, but apparently most members of the guild think that they should.
5.1.2007 2:44pm
Steve:
I think it's sad that the faculty and staff worked so hard to build a successful, conservative law school - starting basically from scratch - and now the Florida version of the school is destined to end up as a bad joke. I guess the faculty isn't in a position to object, but I certainly understand why they're upset.
5.1.2007 2:53pm
CEB:
I haven't followed the story too closely, but it's pretty clear that the problems with this school go far beyond email and relocation. Here is a discussion over at Bainbridge, where some commenters seem to know a bit about what's going on.
5.1.2007 3:09pm
tarheel:
Would previous posters feel differently if one of the professors was fired or denied tenure for writing a law review article supporting Roe? Figuring out where academic freedom ends and duty to your employer begins is not so easy.
5.1.2007 3:09pm
La Rana (www):
What this? You say the law school founded by the Domino's pizza guy in search of an catholicism dominated society is having problems with academic freedom? How odd.
5.1.2007 3:15pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Apparently, some commenters think that law profs are just day laborers? Hint: no law student should want to attend such a school. If they can't respect the faculty, they won't respect the students.

A school is teachers + students. That's it.

Oh sure, from Plato's Academy on up, there have been people to count the money, ensure the grounds are maintained, and suchlike.

In Plato's time, those people were called "slaves." Today, we call them "administrators."
5.1.2007 3:16pm
Kysa Beringer (mail):
To reduce this down to "What you don't have is a right to vote on what your employer does" is to be in gross error at several levels. First, the Law School administration has been violating ABA standards of accreditation for years. Are law faculty to simply stand idle while this happens? Second, academic communities are just that - communities. They're not top-down managed firms. Many of the faculty who signed the statement were *founders* of the school who poured their own money and careers into the community's formation. Finally, while some might find the statement unconvincing, try taking *any* law school faculty in the country and crafting a document that *everyone* can put his name to; you might as well herd cats. Bravo to AMSL's faculty for valuing their institution and profession enough to push back against a nutbar billionaire and his lemmings.
5.1.2007 3:22pm
Jeremy T:
Anderson,

No law student I know actually wants to attend law school. We all just wanted to be lawyers, and law school was a necessary step. Anyone who WANTS to go to law school should have his head examined.


Would previous posters feel differently if one of the professors was fired or denied tenure for writing a law review article supporting Roe? Figuring out where academic freedom ends and duty to your employer begins is not so easy.


I would have no problem with a private law school firing people based on that. I remember reading something about freedom of association in one of those amendments... I think it was somewhere near the top...
5.1.2007 3:22pm
FC:
Anderson,

If you have found a law school whose administration and faculty respect students, please tell us its name so I can apply there.
5.1.2007 3:27pm
Federal Dog:
"First, the Law School administration has been violating ABA standards of accreditation for years."


Ooooooo. Defying the ABA. Someone call the authorities.
5.1.2007 3:29pm
Just a thought:

You know, if your employer moves the corporate headquarters (or the assembly plant, for that matter), you have two choices: move yourself or find a new job. What you don't have is a right to vote on what your employer does.


If we were talking about a privately-owned business, I'd agree with you. But we're talking about a non-profit educational institution governed by (what should be) an objective set of Board of Governors. In the latter scenario, one individual should not have the ability to move the institution because of his own personal preference, to the detriment of the educational institution and community.
5.1.2007 3:38pm
tarheel:

I would have no problem with a private law school firing people based on that.

Fair enough. I don't think anyone is disputing the school's legal/constitutional right to do what it wants. Similarly, the professors can use what leverage they have to try to change that course of action. I suspect both sides know that the ABA will side with the profs come accreditation time, which would seriously harm the school and, more importantly, its students and graduates (I highly doubt SCOTUS justices would hire a clerk from an unaccredited school, for example). Why else would the administration seem so afraid of what the profs might say to the ABA?
5.1.2007 3:42pm
Jeremy T:

I suspect both sides know that the ABA will side with the profs come accreditation time, which would seriously harm the school and, more importantly, its students and graduates (I highly doubt SCOTUS justices would hire a clerk from an unaccredited school, for example). Why else would the administration seem so afraid of what the profs might say to the ABA?


Because of the power over the market that the ABA accrediation process has been given by the fact that most states require graduation from an ABA accredited law school as a condition of licensure.

If ABA accrediation stands in the way of private schools firing law professors for any reason or no reason, then it is problematic. It's especially problematic if the accrediation process causes religious based law schools to be unable to fire those who violate religious doctrine by their teaching. There are a whole host of First Amendment problems there, including free exercise, freedom of association, and freedom of speech.

I cannot fathom how anyone, conservative or liberal, can think it's a good idea for the government through legal rules related to accreditation to restrict private law school's First Amendment rights. Those who are familiar with the beginnings of the Civil Rights Movement know that a government in control of curricula and teaching policies could have potentially strangled the movement in it's cradle.

If a private law school wants to dedicate itself to churning out lawyers who will dedicate themselves to overturning Roe or any other legal goal, I have no objection and neither should anyone else.
5.1.2007 3:50pm
Jeremy T:

But we're talking about a non-profit educational institution governed by (what should be) an objective set of Board of Governors. In the latter scenario, one individual should not have the ability to move the institution because of his own personal preference, to the detriment of the educational institution and community.


One individual presumably does not have the authority to do what is being suggested. The Board of Governors does, as your post demonstrates. One individual might be highly influential, but that doesn't mean it's his decision.
5.1.2007 3:52pm
TribalPundit (W&M 0L) (mail) (www):
I don't understand why this couldn't have been done more deftly. Set up a "satellite" campus in Florida and gradually transfer resources there over time. Who knows? Perhaps both campuses could have thrived.
5.1.2007 3:57pm
Kysa Beringer (mail):

Ooooooo. Defying the ABA. Someone call the authorities.

The faculty, the Dean, and the Board signed-on to agree to the ABA's requirements for accreditation. If the administration can't abide by them, then they shouldn't have agreed to them. Maybe you think that standards and what parties agree to are jokes to be dismissed; hopefully, you're not an attorney.
5.1.2007 3:59pm
Hattio (mail):
Jeremy T,
The one thing you are missing is that ABA accreditation is not required by the Federal Government. To practice in Federal courts, you need to be licensed in a state. If this school wants to be an unlicensed law school, it can. If it wants its graduates to be able to be licensed, all it has to do is convince Florida (or Michigan if it doesn't move) to allow anyone to take the bar. Or it could move to California. This is not the case of the Federal government forcing anyone to do anything. Rather this is a case of Federalism working in harmony.
5.1.2007 4:03pm
Crunchy Frog:

If it wants its graduates to be able to be licensed, all it has to do is convince Florida (or Michigan if it doesn't move) to allow anyone to take the bar.

Riiiiiiiight. Like that's going to happen any time soon.
5.1.2007 4:24pm
tarheel:
The faculty have more than ABA leverage, as well.

1) They can quit en masse (as they seem to be threatening), effectively shutting down the school at least temporarily, and

2) They can make known to the world (as they are doing) that professors at AMLS are treated like at-will employees. Unless the school wants to double or triple salaries, I suspect that any professor with a choice of jobs would go elsewhere.
5.1.2007 4:27pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
As other commenters have noted, universities are a very unique kind of community. As a lawyer for one, I'm not going to delve too deeply here, but suffice it to say that historically universities have occupied a special place in our society. They are not mere businesses providing a service, education, to their consumers, students. That's an important function, but hardly the only one.

That said, I don't see where the faculty are denying the legal right of their Board to take the actions being proposed. Presumably, the contractual guarantees of tenure are subject to dissolution if the legal entity comprising the school is also dissolved; any claim for breach of contract would be against the legal entity, which could probably be left holding few if any assets anyway.

No, the faculty are appealing to the rest of the educational community, to encourage them to exert social and financial pressure on the Board and the dean to do what the faculty perceives to be the right thing. They certainly have a right to do so.

The educational community tends to be as self-protective of its prerogatives as the blogging community. Look how quick our own community is to come to the defense of targets of government censorship or recipients of cease-and-desist orders from corporate lawyers trying to squash critics. These law professors are simply doing the same thing.
5.1.2007 4:42pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
'to push back against a nutbar billionaire and his lemmings'

They'll take his money but they won't swallow his notions?

Color me unimpressed by the supposed issues of principle, then.
5.1.2007 4:49pm
Zathras (mail):
Ave Maria's leaving Michigan would undercut one of the few growth industries in Michigan--4th tier law schools.

At least Cooley could pick up the slack.
5.1.2007 4:53pm
Randy R. (mail):
This is really all about control. Sure, the pizza guy pumped a lot of money into this quixotic adventure, but the bottom line is that this whole concept was not built to glorify Jesus or the Catholic Church, but to glorify Tom Monaghan. And so he tries to play with all these elements, the school, the buildings, the faculty, the students, the governments, as though they are his playthings, at his disposal, ready to take their marching orders from him. And when the don't, he cries because they won't play their role!

Hasn't the world had enough of these egomanical sorts?
5.1.2007 5:03pm
Randy R. (mail):
And I have little sympathy for the rest of the gang. They thought that they could play the role or not as they pleased, and that somehow it would work out in the end. Perhaps some were so naive as to think that this was actually about establishing a new bulwark for conservative theology and public affairs, but perhaps now they are learning that the bottomline isn't religion or conservative issues, it's power.
5.1.2007 5:05pm
Federal Dog:
"Maybe you think that standards and what parties agree to are jokes to be dismissed"


I think the ABA is an abusive joke to be dismissed. It's not like it has legitimate standards, or like any school is free to disagree with it and still remain viable, so the basis of your comment is doubly invalid.
5.1.2007 5:05pm
DHBerger (mail):
Thank you, Hattio, for clarifying that the ABA is not a governmental agency and a school can operate without accreditation.

I'm sure some of the right-wing guys who troll the comments on this blog will rant about the ABA, but whatever you think about its politics on issues like affirmative action, it undeniably serves as a neutral arbiter of minimum standards for law schools. Look at George Mason, which is a thriving ABA -accredited and highly-ranked law school that is an intellectual home to conservatives.

No, what happened here from what I can tell is that Monaghan, who is a complete psychopath, founded a Catholic law school. Then the school actually turned into a half-way decent law school that was not entirely infused with religious dogma and actually taught real law. But this enraged Monaghan, who now wants to move the school to his little insane cocoon in Florida. How very sad.
5.1.2007 5:06pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
I think the ABA is an abusive joke to be dismissed. It's not like it has legitimate standards, or like any school is free to disagree with it and still remain viable, so the basis of your comment is doubly invalid.

For better or worse, your opinion of the ABA doesn't affect the decision of Ave Maria to enter into agreements with them.
5.1.2007 5:33pm
Federal Dog:
"For better or worse, your opinion of the ABA doesn't affect the decision of Ave Maria to enter into agreements with them."


And who said it did?
5.1.2007 5:37pm
Kysa Beringer (mail):

I think the ABA is an abusive joke to be dismissed. It's not like it has legitimate standards, or like any school is free to disagree with it and still remain viable, so the basis of your comment is doubly invalid.

OK.. soo, if Tom Monaghan (like you) couldn't agree to abide by the ABA standards, then why did he sign-off on the standards? Because he is an arrogant billionaire who discredits Catholics, conservatives, and professionals in academia and law by virtue of his "rules apply to me only as long as they benefit my ends" behavior. In 2003, Monaghan had to payback over $250,000 to the Department of Education after being caught illegally disbursing federal student aid to students on his start-up temporary Florida campus (Ave Maria University). Again, the burden is on you to explain why he freely choses to accept standards/rules, then shows no qualms breaking them. The AMSL faculty more-than-upheld their end of the deal.
5.1.2007 5:38pm
Columcille (mail):
"They'll take his money but they won't swallow his notions?"

The Founding Faculty pledged their own money (widow's mite) and took no initial salary to get AMSoL launched. They made a proposal to the Ave Maria Foundation (Monaghan) for start up capital to fund their non-for-profit until 2009 when they were to be entirely independent of Foundation funds. It was upon this plan that the ABA granted full accreditation - significant, as the ABA raised concerns about the law school being dependent on one single donor.

The law school was on track, in fact it was exceeding its projections on every level (student profile, application growth, bar passage rates, clerkships, donations, etc).

During this time, the ABA visitors described AMSoL as perhaps the most classically liberal law school in America, remarking on how open and civil the dialogue was in the classroom - no subject was out of bounds for discussion. This in contrast to the dogmatic political correctness and incivility they see at many law schools in the country.

The school was a phenomenal success, that is until Monaghan started to act as if the school was his personal property, and the Faculty and students were fungible items.

Board members who dissented from his will were forceably removed from the Board until there were enough votes in his favor. Prof. Charles Rice was not only removed from the Board, but then fired - he was the reason most of the first graduates at AMSoL took a chance on the new school.

The instances of governance abuse began to grow and the law school began to suffer - quality drop in student profile, loss of faculty, drop in applications, etc.).

The Founding Faculty have shown extraordinary restraint - even now the particular complaints remain confidential as the ABA make their decision. The Founding Faculty made their case internally, and when they met with a brick wall, they escalated to the Board, then to the ABA, now they are alerting the community of Catholic Legal Scholars to the governance problems at AMSoL (Mirror of Justice) which is its own informal soft court of appeal.

This issue is not about a move to Florida, it is an issue about governance, and the duties of an independent Board of Governors to exercise a duty of care, loyality and obedience to the mission of the school.

Mr. Monaghan was in no way ever the "employer" of the Faculty. The instances cited in the Faculty letter are to show the repressive climate that has gripped the school, it is not about academic freedom.

This issue is about illegal board actions and the abuse of power, and it is of relevance to all of you as members of the broader legal community.

For more info see:

www.avewatch.org
5.1.2007 5:46pm
Angus:
Anyone else remember the "Stepford Wives" town Monaghan wants to set up in Florida to house the new Law School? "We're going to control the cable television that comes in the area. There is not going to be any pornographic television in Ave Maria Town. If you go to the drugstore and you want to buy the pill or the condoms or contraception, you won't be able to get that."
5.1.2007 5:51pm
Federal Dog:
"why did he sign-off on the standards?"


For the same reason a shopkeeper would pay protection money, or a taxpayer would pay taxes: He has no choice.
5.1.2007 5:52pm
Steve:
He has no choice.

Of course he has a choice not to accept the benefits of accreditation.
5.1.2007 5:59pm
Columcille (mail):
No, what happened here from what I can tell is that Monaghan, who is a complete psychopath, founded a Catholic law school. Then the school actually turned into a half-way decent law school that was not entirely infused with religious dogma and actually taught real law. But this enraged Monaghan, who now wants to move the school to his little insane cocoon in Florida. How very sad.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

1. Monaghan didn't "found" the law school, he provided the startup capital. The Founding Faculty all left positions at other law schools to create the school, they designed it, and asked that Bernie Dobranski be the dean, they asked the Ave Maria Foundation to back them for the medium term (less than 10 years).

2. The law school became an excellent place of legal scholarship due to the Founding Faculty and quality of students - all of whom have a deep interest in studying law within the context of the Catholic Intellectual Tradition (Catholic Social Teaching and the Natural Law).

3. The law school has always taught real law AND was infused by a very deep and informed understanding of classical philosophy, moral reasoning, theology, and yes, dogmatic principles. It is BECAUSE of this robustness of Catholic intellectual culture that the Law School did so well academically, and also why it attracted a wide sprectrum of people - not just Catholics. Understanding the roots of the law is an attractive educational offering compared to the ideological driven professors at other law schools.

Monaghan is his own worst enemy, and he doesn't understand Catholicism in depth or in practice. In many ways he is a "cafeteria Catholic" of the conservative variety who rejects critical aspects of the Faith - mostly having to do with Catholic Social Teaching. He needs the law school in Florida to shore up his speculative real estate venture which is in crisis. He needs warm bodies to fill the place and make it look like it is an attractive investment opportunity.

The Catholicism of Ave Maria is what made it strong on every level, the lack of a Catholic ethos on the Board of Governors is what is destroying the school.
5.1.2007 6:04pm
Federal Dog:
"Of course he has a choice not to accept the benefits of accreditation."


Yes, and the taxpayer has the option of fines and/or going to jail, and the shopkeeper has the option of being beaten, torched, and/or killed.
5.1.2007 6:06pm
Kysa Beringer (mail):
With all due respect, Federal Dog, you're digging a hole. The fact that I have to pay taxes is not even remotely analogous to entering into a highly voluntary/optional agreement to start a law school - an agreement not just with an agency (ABA), but also many others (students, alumni, faculty). Further, I pay my taxes, regardless of agreeing with them or not. My obligations are kept. Again, I hope you're not an attorney advocating for entering into voluntary agreements, then violating them at will. Starting a law school is most certainly not an involuntary act.
5.1.2007 6:09pm
anonVCfan:
I find it difficult to figure out from the post precisely what the AMSL professors are complaining about.

I understand the controversy over the move, but I don't understand what their other complaints about Monaghan are about. It's long on epithets and short on specifics. They obviously find Monaghan to be a poor leader and something of a bully, but it's unclear who "they" are or precisely what Monaghan's done wrong other than support moving the school. I hope the person who posted isn't in charge of the AMSL writing program...

Dog et al., as Anderson points out, one's opinion of the ABA has nothing to do with this. I haven't read anywhere that Monaghan's breach of ABA standards and risking the loss of the school's accreditation represent some sort of principled stand against the ABA. Monaghan's opponents are opposed to this stuff (ostensibly) because they think he's being a reckless manager, not because they're defending the honor of the ABA.
5.1.2007 6:09pm
Federal Dog:
Kysa--

That's why I mentioned the shopkeeper paying protection money to the mob: The ABA is a political racketeering organization that can strip a school's graduates of the right to sit the bar. That's a death knell.
5.1.2007 6:14pm
Captain Spaulding:
"Again, I hope you're not an attorney advocating for entering into voluntary agreements, then violating them at will."

It is not necessarily bad to advise a client to "violate" a "voluntary agreement," that is, to breach a contract.

A number of folks take the view that contracts are not moral agreements.
5.1.2007 6:22pm
Steve:
Yes, and the taxpayer has the option of fines and/or going to jail, and the shopkeeper has the option of being beaten, torched, and/or killed.

I'm glad you think this is a great analogy, as it's ably demonstrating the extremism of your position. As for the taxpayer, the more salient point is that if you want the benefits of U.S. citizenship, you have to pay the legally mandated price. Most of us have little sympathy for the sort of person who says "it was ok for me to lie on my taxes, because the government unfairly coerces me into paying them."
5.1.2007 6:25pm
e:
Possible translation of Mr. Dog: A person otherwise perfectly capable of practicing law must join the union to do so. If people have to prove themselves on the bar anyway, why additional nonsense. The contract is suspect due to that, and I suspect many other schools have had issues with the union.
5.1.2007 6:28pm
Federal Dog:
"I'm glad you think this is a great analogy, as it's ably demonstrating the extremism of your position."


What happens to any law school that defies, say, ABA demands for race-based admissions or hiring? That is only one recent example of ABA extremism.
5.1.2007 6:29pm
TribalPundit (W&M 0L) (mail) (www):
Federal Dog,

Isn't that a state-by-state issue, though? In Virginia, anyone can take the bar exam. If other states have predicated eligibility for taking the bar on ABA certification, then the correct focus should be on the state legislatures. The ABA has a right to try and get power; it's up to the state governments to decide how much they get.
5.1.2007 6:30pm
Finbar (mail):
I disagree with those who claim this is short on facts or that it's hard to figure out what's to complain of - targetted retaliation regarding salary, promotions, chairmanship of committees, threats of being fired, monitoring of emails, computers and research assistants all sound like very concrete factual allegations of wrong-doing to me. If this kind of conduct was going on at any other law school, would we all just yawn and say this is business as usual? And apparently it's not just a few faculty members making these allegations but a majority of the faculty.

Eugene has offered to post the views of those with other views about what is going on at the school. I for one would love to know what the acadmeics who serve on the Ave Maria Law board of Governors has to say -- I looked them up and they are the following - Helen Alvare, at Catholic University Law; Gerry Bradley of Notre Dame; Robby George, of Princeton; and Michael Uhlmann. Is it true that the Board received detailed allegations of these abuses a year ago and has just silently dismissed the concerns of the faculty? How many law deans continue in their positions after having a vote of no-confidence in them? I've never heard of anyone staying on in those conditions. How could the Board simply dismiss such concerns? It's all very odd. But then stories coming out of Florida and Ave Maria University are equally strange, including the abrupt firing of the provost last month, followed by his re-hiring the next day, with a demotion. None of which was ever explained.

As the faculty said in their letter -- who would want to live in a town with this kind of management and control? When a Board with seemingly responsible people can't keep things on an even keel at these institutions, what hope do towns-folk have in getting fair treatment?
5.1.2007 6:38pm
U.Va. 2L:
The ABA is a political racketeering organization that can strip a school's graduates of the right to sit the bar.

So sit for the bar in California or Virginia and then waive in somewhere. I don't see the problem here; this is federalism at work.
5.1.2007 7:00pm
Cornellian (mail):
The ABA is a political racketeering organization that can strip a school's graduates of the right to sit the bar.

If you graduate from an ABA accredited law school, you can sit for the bar in any state and the ABA can't retroactively deprive a graduate of that ability. More importantly, the ABA has no power to allow or prevent anyone from sitting for the bar - that's entirely the prerogative of state governments. If a state legislature chooses to require graduation from an ABA accredited law school as a condition of sitting for their bar exam, your objection to that is with the state government, not the ABA. Although many states do have such a requirement, some states do not, including the country's most populous state (California), which alone accounts for a significant percentage of the country's population and therefore a significant percentage of the population who become lawyers.
5.1.2007 7:29pm
anonVCfan:
Finbar, you make a fair point. Prof. Volokh's characterization ("at times short on details") is probably better than minemaybe I'm not reading closely, but this is kinda short on details. Even so, there are a few factual allegations buried in subjective complaints.

A majority of the faculty whom the Dean believes to be disloyal to him have been punished financially and through manipulation of the promotion and tenure system. One tenured faculty member has been repeatedly threatened with termination based upon bizarre allegations. Junior faculty members have been threatened that their careers would be harmed if they associate with disfavored tenured faculty. We have also been informed that Dean Dobranski had instituted a system of monitoring our emails and computers, and student research assistants have been closely questioned about research projects of disfavored faculty members. All tenured faculty members have been removed from the Chairs of faculty committees, and such chairs are now in the control of the few faculty members whom the Dean believes to be loyal to him. Cumulatively, such intimidation and bullying has created an intolerable atmosphere of fear and contempt at our school.

Monitoring faculty e-mails is hard to justify, if true. Restricting the holders of committee chairs to people who can be fired also looks pretty bad, if true.

The rest of it, though.... What does it mean to say that "[o]ne tenured faculty member has been repeatedly threatened with termination based upon bizarre allegations"?

And what does this mean: "A majority of the faculty whom the Dean believes to be disloyal to him have been punished financially and through manipulation of the promotion and tenure system?" How is the dean able to punish faculty members other than through manipulation of the promotion and tenure system, and how has he manipulated the promotion and tenure system? I suppose one can always ask for more detail, but these are so undetailed as to sound more like subjective impressions than like allegations of actual wrongdoing.

Paragraphs like this one make me particularly suspicious:

What is more, in our view calling a living community of hundreds of human persons a "failed experiment" reveals a remarkable disregard for basic Christian values. Furthermore, the charge of failure is demonstrably false. On the contrary, as our high bar passage rate and judicial clerkship numbers demonstrate, our school actually is a phenomenal success. The only failure has been the Board's inexcusable failure to provide leadership in the face of the current crisis.

Ave Maria's mission statement includes emphasis on morality, natural law, and Catholic faith, and it strikes me as ludicrous to say that allegations that it's "a failed experiment" are affirmatively disproven by pointing to statistics on judicial clerkship placement and bar passage.

If their arguments are this bad, it makes me suspect that they're just angry about the move. The skeptic in me begins to speculate, and I wonder if the facts might look more like this:

1. Dean makes decision several faculty don't like.
2. Faculty try to fight the decision by complaining to Dean's bosses.
3. Dean's bosses rebuff faculty's complaints.
4. Faculty continue to sulk about (1) and do a variety of things such as complaining to the media and shirking their responsibilities in an attempt to send the administration the message that the school will suffer unless (1) is reversed.
5. Instead of acquiescing, Dean and administration try to fight back against intransigent faculty by removing them, or decreasing their responsibilities.
6. Faculty post on blog, construing (5) as authoritarianism and bullying.

As I said, I'm largely ignorant of the facts and I'm just speculating. I would be extremely interested if someone could explain the facts further.
5.1.2007 7:35pm
Kysa Beringer (mail):

April 10, 2006 - Board of Directors of the AMSL Alumni Association passed a resolution of "no confidence" in Dean
Dobranski.

April 12, 2006 - AMSL faculty passed a resolution of "no confidence" in the leadership of Dean Dobranski.

April 18, 2006 (4 business days later) - The AMSL Board of Governors issued a "unanimous" resolution that affirmed the Dean's position without so much as interviewing a single faculty member.

From ABA Standards Book 2005-2006:
"Standard 205. Dean
(d) The faculty or a representative body of it shall advise, consult, and make recommendations to the appointing authority in the selection of a dean.
Interpretation 205-1: The faculty or a representative body of it should have substantial involvement in the selection of a dean. Except in circumstances demonstrating good cause, a dean should not be appointed or reappointed to a new term over the stated objection of a substantial majority of the faculty."
5.1.2007 7:41pm
anonVCfan:
5 minutes after posting, and I'm already regretting it.

I don't know much about faculty governance, and I'm much more curious than informed at this point. If EV is reporting that "another source [he] trust[s] reports that the allegations are indeed quite credible," then I have no independent reason to doubt that.
5.1.2007 7:42pm
b.:
50+ comments and not a single joke yet about AMLS faculty member Robert Bork?

This blog is too damned conservative.
5.1.2007 7:42pm
Kysa Beringer (mail):

"at times short on details"

And you were expecting a guest blog post to be long on details? The details were referenced in other documents. You can also try here.
5.1.2007 7:44pm
Finbar (mail):
AnonVCfan,

Well, one answer to these questions will perhaps be forthcoming from the ABA, which is reportedly in the midst of conducting an investigation of the factual allegations contained in a complaint by the faculty.

Regarding your hypothetical timeline, the facts don't bear you out. The faculty voted "no confidence" in the Dean in April 2006, but the Board didn't vote to move until February 2007. The Dean reported that the ABA was considering a complaint in September 2006.

Regarding your syllogism, I don't see how you are connecting the dots. I don't believe the Dean or the Board Members who were calling the school a "failed experiment" were referring to the mission of the school - nor were the faculty referring to the mission when they countered. Instead, these groups are apparently arguing over whether the school can provide an excellent education and be a viable institution. The faculty seems to think it can, and the links in their documents offer plenty of evidence in support of their views. Regarding the mission of the school, the alleged misconduct of the administration surely is not in keeping with natural law notions of morality.

Odd, too that there are three other academic institutions funded and controlled by Monaghan that are similarly either destroyed or being destroyed. (Ave Maria College, Orchard Lake-St. Mary's and now the floundering Ave Maria University). At each of these insitutions, faculty members have made similar allegations -- that Monaghan acts as though he "owns" the institutions, that he fails to keep his promises, and that he has no respect for academic norms or procedures. A simple google search will turn up those claims, or most of the documents are available at a web site called avewatch.org

Some had thought the law school, with ABA oversight and the need to respect ABA guidelines would temper Monaghan's proclivity, and in the first few years it seemed this was so. But obviously it hasn't worked out that way.
5.1.2007 8:03pm
John Fee (mail):
I had thought that Federal Dog's original point was to minimize the significance of ABA accreditation, when he said sarcastically "Ooooooo. Defying the ABA. Someone call the authorities."

But now in response to follow-up questions on that comment, he argues (apparently without sarcasim) that it would be a "death knell" to lose ABA accreditation.

I am now baffled at what Federal Dog's overall point is relating to the situation of Ave Maria.
5.1.2007 8:21pm
Jeremy T:
UVA 2L,

Perhaps you should comment about things you have some experience with. Most states do not allow graduates of nonaccredited law schools to take the bar even if they've been admitted to the bar of another state.

The ABA is a racket, Federal Dog is absolutely right.
5.1.2007 8:24pm
Cenrand:
Jeremy T:

How exactly is the ABA a racket? The ABA has absolutely zero control over state bars. State legislatures are the ones who have control over there own bars - and they are the ones who voluntarily choose to use the ABA standards. How is this not Federalism at work?
5.1.2007 9:23pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
OK, Columcille, any old Maecenas in a storm, I guess.

But it's bad from to disparage the host's wine. I learned that in Catholic grade school.

If they didn't want his tainted money, they didn't have to take it.
5.1.2007 9:23pm
Ella (www):
Cenrand,

Actually, in many, if not most, states, the state judiciary has control over the rules for the admission to the bar, including the ABA-accreditation requirement. In Maryland, almost every time the legislature tries to impose regulation on the state bar, the judiciary overturns the legislation on separation-of-powers grounds.
5.1.2007 9:29pm
anonVCfan:
Finbar and Kysa Beringer, thanks for the responses. I'll look through the linked documents. I missed a few important details at the outset.
5.1.2007 9:35pm
Ave 1L:
The e-mail from the Dean that the faculty quotes at length is rather creatively clipped. Notice that the paragraphs before and after the e-mail talk about the ABA fact-finder coming to campus. They stress that the e-mail was sent "eight days before the school was visited by an ABA fact-finder." After they quote the e-mail at length, they say "The Dean of a (currently) ABA accredited law school is threatening to fire faculty whom he finds, in his own opinion, to be acting in any way he thinks might possibly cause harm to AMSL." The quoted portion of the e-mail starts off Ave Maria School of Law resources, including the Law School email, may not be used ... for any ... activities or purposes that are intended to or are reasonably likely to undermine the school. [Elipses in original, which is important.] One is left with the impression that the e-mail is tied to the ABA investigator's visit; that the Dean is threatening faculty who aid the ABA investigation.

But what of those elipses? If you follow the link to the full e-mail, here's the full line (omitted parts in bold): Ave Maria School of Law resources, including the Law School email, may not be used to promote the establishment of another law school or for any other activities or purposes that are intended to or are reasonably likely to undermine the school. The two paragraphs they quote consist of 229 words, and they clip 10 of them out. Were they trying to save space? The e-mail from the Dean was not an attempt to chill cooperation with the ABA investigation, but to take issue with a group of faculty who used an all-system distribution e-mail to tout an alternative law school that they were looking to open. I can think of no justification for quoting almost an entire e-mail message save for the 10 words that change the context. If there is a reason for this beyond pure dishonesty, I'd love to hear it. Maybe some of my respect for the faculty at this school would be restored.

[Oh, and don't worry anonVCfan, the poster ISN'T in charge of the AMSoL writing program.]
5.1.2007 10:46pm
LE:
The linked post is extremely poorly written and does not reflect well on the quality of Ave Maria's faculty. Do they teach legal writing at that school?
5.1.2007 11:24pm
Frankly Speaking (mail):
Dear 1L,

I can think of an explanation for the faculty to leave out the material you have quoted that makes sense to me.

First, the Dean announces that the school is definitely moving to Florida, even though he mentions in passing that this move is entirely contingent on ABA approval. At the very time he makes this announcement, the Dean knows that the ABA is investigating a serious complaint of violations of the ABA guidelines for accredited law schools. The ABA also knows that three constituents --, the faculty, the alumni and the current students have all registered their lack of confidence in the Dean's leadership. Therefore, the Dean must be aware of the fact that it is highly unlikely that the ABA will agree to a major change to AMSL in the midst of this school-wide breakdown in trust. Sure -- you're doing so well here in Ann Arbor, that moving 1300 miles away with only 3 or 4 of your faculty is a great idea? Not very likely.

The Dean has also repeatedly told the students that he would not favor moving the school without accreditation -- starting over from scratch in Florida. And he has repeatedly said that neither he nor the board has any contingency plan in the event that the ABA refuses acquiescence. In his mind, it's either Florida or nothing. He tells the students that members of the board think it is a failed experiment, laying the groundwork for abandoning the school should ABA acquiescence be denied.

So the faculty set about investigating other options for maintaining the program of legal education that the ABA accredited here in Ann Arbor. The Dean alleges that this effort amounts to "starting another law school". The faculty does not agree with this allegation. They believe that they are trying to preserve the current law school, not start another one. Therefore they leave out his baseless allegation from their guest-blogging short summary of problems spanning two years of incidents.

If you haven't had legal writing yet, 1L, this is a well-known legal technique called "focusing the argument." It's used by lawyers when they prefer not to get bogged down in what they consider to be diversions from the main points. Since it would have taken up too much time and effort to refute the baseless allegation, they left it out. However, they also followed legal conventions in noting the ellipsis and pointing one to the original source so that people would not be misled by their omission. Perhaps if you continue to study hard and learn from these professors, you too will learn how to think and argue like a lawyer!

Now get back to your studying. Exams are upon us! Anyone who thinks the Dean's threats of firing anyone whom he believes to be injuring the law school (tangibly or intangibly) were not meant to chill those talking to the ABA factfinder needs to study extra hard to do well.
5.1.2007 11:38pm
Jeremy T:
Cenrand,

You have absolutely no idea what you're talking about.
5.1.2007 11:38pm
Frankly Speaking (mail):
Yes, le, let's all continue to focus on the alleged lack of quality in writing in the linked document rather than any of the substantive claims. That makes us look so very superior. Why I believe there may be a split infiinitve or two in these very comments! How can anyone expect to be taken seriously with such grammatical outrages?
5.1.2007 11:45pm
Cenrand:
Jeremy,

So its the judges who promulgate the bar standards? Admittedly, I am no expert on the subject. Of course, I was also not aware the ABA was responsible for selecting justices for State Supreme Courts.

So I beg you, enlighten me as to how exactly the ABA is a racket?
5.2.2007 12:14am
CaptDMO:
"The letter is at times short on details, and is not individually signed..."
Round File.
5.2.2007 12:34am
Sure Thing:
"If they didn't want his tainted money, they didn't have to take it."

It is hilarious that intelligent adults (especially Catholic ones) believe that injustice is acceptable so long as it's committed by the guy who's "buying."
5.2.2007 4:50am
Public_Defender (mail):
Nice post Columcille.

Ave Maria was a worthy effort. I am not a conservative Catholic, but a robust conservative Catholic law school could make a subatantial contribution to the diversity of legal scholarship and learning.

Unfortunately, Ave Maria turned into Tom Monaghan's personal pet. It sounds like they selected a bunch of good conservative Catholic professors. It's a shame that Monaghan couldn't just let them do their job.

Setting aside the 4th-Tier snipes (and with no disrespect toward previous students who attended what looked like a promising new school), the real question is what kind of student would be crazy enough to attend such a troubled law school.
5.2.2007 6:29am
Jeremy T:

So I beg you, enlighten me as to how exactly the ABA is a racket?


Many ABA accreditation standards are absolutely absurd and offensive. I don't have time to get into a massive debate about the matter, nor do I think this is the appropriate forum. Feel free to google "ABA accreditation" and I'm sure you'll find some of the criticism. I simply don't have the time to put up a thoughtful post on the matter.

An excellent example, though, is what happened to the new Charleston School of Law. It was denied accreditation in the first round because there weren't enough blacks at the school. CSOL had reached out as much as possible to blacks (which is itself offensive; I thought everybody wanted a colorblind society). The problem was that most blacks are at the lower end of the economic spectrum and couldn't afford the school's $30,000/year tuition. More importantly, federal student aid was not available to the school because it was not accredited. So only rich people could afford it because it wasn't accredited, yet the ABA would not accredit it because only rich people went to it.

That's just one example of the absurdity of the ABA accreditation process. It's also an example of how ABA accreditation is truly a racket. If you are a non-accredited school, you will not be able to function as a law school except at the very margins.

My opinion is that accreditation should be determined exclusively by whether the school's curriculum and educational approach prepares students well for either the bar exam or a career in legal scholarship. Those should be the only relevant questions. Instead, ABA standards go well beyond that into areas that are only of concern to those who (a) want a barrier to entry to protect their own economic interests and (b) are liberal.

Not all barriers to entry are bad, but many of the ABA standards are unquestionably unrelated to producing well prepared JD holders. The primary reason for this is economic protectionism, but there's a healthy dose of liberal BS in the standards too. That's why it's a racket.

And don't complain that I haven't cited sources or anything. Go look it up.
5.2.2007 1:07pm
Gerald (mail):

Regardless of whether the ABA accreditation scheme is a racket, this school agreed to abide by its standards and has reaped enormous benefits from the ABA's accreditation. Now it needs to keep its end of the bargain, and if it doesn't it is committing a fraud on its students and the entire legal community.

Doesn't the fact that the ABA sent a fact-finder to the school only a year after the school was granted full accreditation indicate that there is some evidentiary basis to conclude that the allegations have merit? I've heard of ABA complaints that were disposed of at the intitial filing stage, or after a few rounds of replies were received from the school. It's quite rare, however, to have an ABA investigator sent out. If there was nothing to the complaint, I don't see why the ABA would waste its time going out and investigating.
5.2.2007 1:49pm
Jeremy T:
Ah, yes. If the authorities are investigating someone, they must have done it!

Welcome to Kafkaland.
5.2.2007 4:37pm
Michael B (mail):
All the anti-Catholic misanthropy aside, Columcille's comments, all of them, sound convincing, have the ring of truth and have supportive material to boot; if so it reforms my opinion and Monaghan has morphed into more of a dysanthropist than anything else.
5.2.2007 4:53pm
totustuusmaria (mail):
Those people writing about this without knowledge of what they speak ought to read the comments posted by Columcille. They summarize very well and in a comprehensive manner the problem with AMSL.

It is no more than anti-Catholicism to think the apparent failure of the Law School is on account of the Catholicism of its cash cow (who, incidentally, was only supposed to provide money until 2009), or that its temporary success was on account of some liberalization from this strong Catholicism. This could not be further from the truth! The faculty are all strong and committed Catholics -- just as strong as Mr. Monaghan, and Monaghan's Catholicism has nothing to do with its current state. I rather would blame it on his background and personality and the way he is accostomed to doing things. An equally committed Catholic with a different approach could have made this school a success.
5.3.2007 2:35am