Cooley Law School files suit to protect students, alumni and reputation

LANSING, MI--The Thomas M. Cooley Law School filed two lawsuits today to protect the reputation of the school and its students and alumni from defamatory Internet attacks. In the two actions, the law school asserts defamation and other legal claims against a New York City law firm, two lawyers in that firm, and four anonymous Internet bloggers.

"With ethics and professionalism at the core of our law school's values, we cannot - and will not - sit back and let anyone circulate defamatory statements about Cooley or the choices our students and alumni made to seek their law degree here," said Brent Danielson, Chair of Cooley's Board of Directors and a retired District Court Judge.

The lawsuits were filed earlier today in Ingham County (Mich.) Circuit Court.

In one lawsuit, Cooley contends that the law firm of Kurzon Strauss LLP and two lawyers in that firm, David Anziska and Jesse Strauss, defamed Cooley by falsely claiming on Internet websites, social media, and email that Cooley, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) Michigan educational corporation, has defrauded students by misrepresenting its graduate employment placement rates, average starting salary figures, and student loan default rates. In the other lawsuit, Cooley claims that four anonymous Internet bloggers defamed the law school in a series of Internet statements on several websites over the last few months.

"Cooley has consistently and truthfully reported job placement and salary figures in the manner required by the American Bar Association (ABA), our accrediting agency, and by the National Association for Law Placement (NALP), a national jobs-reporting clearinghouse," said Charles Toy, associate dean of Career and Professional Development at Cooley and the immediate past president of the State Bar of Michigan.

Consistent with all 201 ABA accredited law schools, Cooley's job placement rates are reported annually to the ABA and NALP nine months after graduation based upon the results of graduate surveys in full compliance with the reporting methodology required by those agencies. Cooley's reported job placement rates have ranged from the current 76 percent up to 82 percent in 2006, with a similar range reported back to 2000.

"Everyone has the right to state an opinion about Cooley, online or elsewhere," said James B. Thelen, Esq., Cooley's associate dean for legal affairs and general counsel. "But our lawsuits contend that these defendants have crossed the line both legally and ethically, smearing our reputation with blatantly false and often vulgar statements that they attempt to spread as broadly as possible."

"In one online statement," Thelen said, "the Kurzon Strauss firm claimed as facts that there were reports that Cooley students defaulted on their student loans at a 41 percent rate and that Cooley was misreporting its default rate. Both are lies. Cooley doesn't even calculate its default rate - that function is handled by the U.S. Department of Education's Default Prevention and Management Office, and our last official two-year default rate calculated by the federal government was 2.2 percent."

Cooley Law School, based in Lansing, Mich., is accredited by both the American Bar Association and the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges. On the most recent Michigan bar examination, Cooley's graduates had the second highest pass rate of the five Michigan law schools, just behind the University of Michigan.

Published: Mon, Jul 25, 2011