Following an October hearing that found Valparaiso University Law School was not in compliance with the American Bar Association’s student admissions standards, the ABA has imposed a sanction of public censure on the law school and has directed school leaders to take immediate remedial actions.
The ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar posted the notice of public censure on Tuesday, writing in the notice that the northern Indiana law school had not demonstrated compliance with Standards 501(a) and 501(b). Those standards require that “a law school shall maintain sound admission policy and practices” and “shall not admit an applicant who does not appear capable of satisfactorily completing its program of legal education and being admitted to the bar.”
In the public censure, the ABA lists four remedial actions Valparaiso Law School must take, including developing a written plan by Dec. 15 for bringing the law school into compliance, submitting admissions data and methodology to the ABA Accreditation Committee by Dec. 15, publishing the notice of the public censure on its website within five days, and reviewing class quartile rankings of first-time bar exam passage rates with students each semester.
The ABA will visit Valparaiso Law School and submit a separate report about the admission practices. If the law school does not meet admission standards, the legal education program could face a variety of sanctions including a monetary fine, refunding all or part of the tuition or fees paid by students, and loss of accreditation.
According to Valparaiso’s ABA Standard 509 report, students entering the law school in 2013 had a median GPA of 3.0 and median LSAT score of 143. By comparison, the class starting in 2015, which is the most recent data available, had a median GPA of 2.93 and median LSAT score of 145.
Valpariso previously told the Indiana Lawyer that the 103 students who entered in 2016 had a median GPA of 3.02 and median LSAT of 147.
The Valparaiso Law School class of 2014 posted a 61 percent passage rate of the Indiana Bar Exam.
The ABA also posted a notice Tuesday saying the Charlotte School of Law had been placed on probation for failure to comply with the same admissions standards and Standard 301(a), which requires that “a law school shall maintain a rigorous program of legal education that prepares its students … for admission to the bar and for effective, ethical, and responsible participation as members of the legal profession.”
Like Valparaiso, Charlotte must develop a plan for compliance and notify all admitted students and the public of its probationary status. The North Carolina law school could be fined, required to provide refunds to the students or lose accreditation if it fails to meet the ABA standards.
Charlotte is a for-profit law school owned by InfiLaw System which is part of Chicago-based private equity firm Sterling Partners. According to Charlotte’s ABA Standard 509 form, the class entering in 2015 had a median GPA of 2.82 and a median LSAT score of 142. Also the class that graduated in 2014 posted a 57 percent bar passage rate for the North Carolina exam.
Jay Conison, former long-time dean of Valparaiso, has been dean of Charlotte since April 2013. He had announced his intention to retire from the Indiana school in May of 2014 but changed his plans after accepting the offer from Charlotte. He served as dean of the Valparaiso law school from 1998 to March 2013.
Representatives from Valparaiso Law School and the ABA were not immediately available for comment.