By Casey Sullivan
Sept 13 (Reuters) - An Illinois judge has dismissed a class
action brought by nine graduates of a Chicago law school who
claimed they were misled about future job prospects.
In a lawsuit filed in February, the nine accused DePaul
University of fraudulent concealment and misrepresentation,
claiming the school published overstated employment data in an
attempt to persuade students to enroll. The DePaul graduates
have not yet found legal jobs in a tough market and owe hefty
student loans since graduating in 2008.
The plaintiffs had sought reimbursement of portions of their
tuition as well as compensation they would have received had
they been hired out of law school, according to court papers.
In an 11-page decision issued on Sept. 11 in the Circuit
Court of Cook County, Illinois, Judge Neil Cohen dismissed the
case against DePaul, saying the graduates didn't prove it was
university's fault they haven't found work in the legal
industry, and therefore they cannot claim damages.
Cohen wrote that the plaintiffs hadn't demonstrated facts
"connecting DePaul's alleged fraud to their inability to obtain
full-time legal employment sufficient to repay their loans."
He also wrote that the plaintiffs paid tuition to receive a
legal education, and not to necessarily receive employment,
which undercut their efforts seeking tuition reimbursements.
The lawsuit is one of more than a dozen throughout the
country that involve jobless law school graduates who have sued
their alma maters for reporting skewed employment statistics. In
recent months, judges have dismissed several related cases in
New York and Michigan, while others have been upheld in
California, including those against Golden Gate University
School of Law and University of San Francisco School of Law.
The graduates who sued DePaul took issue with the fact that
the school's employment statistics had advertised that between
88 and 98 percent of graduates were employed after graduating.
But the students said in court papers that the school didn't
tell them that many of those jobs weren't full-time legal
In Cohen's dismissal of the lawsuit, he made a point that
DePaul didn't owe the graduates a fiduciary duty to disclose
accurate employment statistics, which is required in order to
allege fraudulent concealment.
"There is no Illinois authority finding that a fiduciary
relationship exists between a student and an educational
institution," Cohen wrote.
The lawyer representing the DePaul graduates, Edward Clinton
of Chicago firm Edward X. Clinton, said he intends on appealing
the decision in Illinois Appellate Court, First District.
DePaul said in a statement Wednesday, "We are pleased that
the Court's decision support's DePaul's position, and we applaud
Judge Neil Cohen's ruling.... These are challenging times for
job seekers, and DePaul's Law Career Services Office is
dedicated to helping our law students find careers that are
right for them."
DePaul's lawyer, Lawrence DiNardo of Jones Day, did not
return requests for comment.
The case is: Jonathan Phillips v. DePaul University, No.
For the plaintiffs: Edward Clinton of Edward X. Clinton.
For the defendant: Lawrence DiNardo, of Jones Day.
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