Round One of Lincoln Memorial University, Duncan School of Law v. American Bar Association goes to the ABA. On January 18, 2012, District Judge Thomas A. Varlan handed down a Memorandum Opinion and Order denying Duncan's motion for a temporary restraining order and for a temporary injunction. ABA Journal Law News Now, Federal Judge Nixes Duncan Law TRO, Calls School’s Future Success in Suit Against ABA ‘Unlikely’ (Jan. 18, 2012).
Judge Varlan's opinion tracked the ABA's brief in opposition:
- Because Duncan can appeal the decision by the Council for the Section for Legal Education and Admission to the Bar rejecting Duncan's application for provisional approval, Duncan had not exhausted its administrative remedies. Slip Op., at 14-20.
- Duncan had a full and fair opportunity to be heard by the Council. Slip Op., at 23-26.
- There was substantial evidence to support the Council's findings, so it had not acted arbitrarily or abused its discretion. Slip Op. at 21-23, 26-35.
- The Council had not failed to follow its own rules by considering Duncan's planning, student debt loads and the experience of Duncan's Director of Lawyering Skills and Academic Success. Slip Op., at 35-36.
- Duncan had not shown the Council had treated Duncan differently than "other similarly-situated, fully-approved law schools with lower [entering LSAT and UGPA] scores." Slip Op., at 36, 36-38).
- Duncan had not shown that it would suffer irreparable injury. Slip Op., at 38-41.
- An injury suffered by Duncan did not outweigh the damage from abridging the Council's First Amendment "right to communicate its views on law schools to governmental bodies and others. Slip Op. at 41-42 (quoting Zavaletta v. Am. Bar Ass'n, 721 F. Supp.96, 98 (E.D. Va. 1989).
- Duncan's claim that the public should be protected from "dissemination of misinformation based upon an arbitrary accreditation decision" should be rejected.
- Duncan was unlikely to succeed on the merits of the underlying claim.
- The public interest claimed by Duncan was outweighed by the "public interest in having those who look to the Section’s evaluation of legal education receive prompt and accurate information." Slip Op. at 42, 41-42.
For links to supporting declaration by the ABA Consultant on Legal Education, see ABA Brief in Duncan Suit.