Friday, July 27, 2012

More thoughts on the ABA Sanction of Illinois and the Fine

Eugenen Kontorovich (Northwestern) writes regarding the ABA fine on the University of Illinois:

I was quite surprised that the ABA pockets the $$$. Since the false information presumably misled some students, shouldn't they be the ones who see the money, in the form of a tuition credit? As it is, the ABA, a wealthy organization of lawyers, has simply become hand in law students' (and taxpayers') pockets. What do you think?

It's an interesting question.  As I understand it, the fine will at least go to covering the costs of auditing law school data.  (And the fine will probably not be as painful for Illinois as the plunge in its reputation score in US News last year and the continuing reputational damage connected to the censure.)  But what do readers think?  Signed comments only:  full name, valid e-mail address.

Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Rankings | Permalink


Given the many millions that law schools spend to enhance their LSAT and UGPA results, the amount of the fine seemed low.

Posted by: Kevin Outterson | Jul 27, 2012 11:00:01 AM

The amount of the fine does seem low but if $250,000 is "the just price" for whatever reason, I suppose that prorating that sum out as a tuition credit wouldn't give deceived students a meaningful amount of money. Putting the fine into an account dedicated to monitoring school-furnished data, rather than stick the cash into ABA general revenue, sounds good to me. I wonder whether the ABA will maintain transparency about this account, which I gather is brand new.

Posted by: Anita Bernstein | Jul 27, 2012 11:25:56 AM

I'm not sure why we think the misrepresentation injured University of Illinois students. Didn't the misrepresentation help Illinois in the rankings (and thus their students)? I'm thinking the people hurt by the misrepresentation are students at other schools. Am I missing something here?

That's a separate issue from whether a fine is appropriate punishment. I take it that the person responsible for the misrepresentation is no longer with the law school; and I'm guessing the fine will hurt most immediately the current students and faculty, who'll have fewer resources this year.

Posted by: Alfred Brophy | Jul 27, 2012 12:50:28 PM

A tuition credit to each current JD student would come out to about $400 a head. In the world of consumer class action settlements, that would be a massive recovery for the plaintiffs. As it is, it looks more like one of those settled class actions where are the money goes into the fund of a non-profit run by a friend of the judges' or lawyers.

Isn't monitoring these numbers what the ABA was supposed to be doing already? If it failed in this job, I find it hard to believe it was for lack of money. I'm sure there is nothing sinister about this arrangement; the idea of giving the money back to the students may never have occurred to them.

To use a salient analogy, it is like if Penn State's fine was made payable directly to the NCAA (to allow them to investigate such allegations better), as opposed to an existing organization for the benefit of victims?

Posted by: Eugene Kontorovich | Jul 27, 2012 1:44:04 PM

What to do with the money is a good question. Letting the ABA keep it gives the ABA an incentive to vigorously go after errant law schools, which might be good or might be bad. I think of the 1927 Tumey v. Ohio, where Taft noted that it's maybe not a good idea for the judge to be able to pocket the fines. But if the judge is as slack as it seems the ABA is, maybe that would be a good idea.

What might be better is a sort of qui tam suit--- for the ABA to pay all fines to whichever whistleblower brings it to the attention of the ABA. And if the law school is its own whistleblower, it gets to keep the fine itself.

Posted by: Eric Rasmusen | Aug 9, 2012 8:06:41 AM

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