By Joseph Ax
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Recent New York Law School graduates
cannot hold their alma mater liable for publishing allegedly
misleading employment data that gave them unrealistic
expectations of the job market, a New York appeals court said
Thursday, affirming an earlier ruling by a trial court.
The Appellate Division, First Department, upheld the
dismissal of a $200 million putative class action lawsuit
brought by nine graduates, who claimed the school published data
that didn't indicate it included non-legal and part-time jobs
and that artificially inflated salary expectations by using a
deliberately small sample of jobs.
The data, they claimed, fooled them into attending law
school, leaving them saddled with massive debt and unable to
In its unanimous ruling Thursday, the First Department said
that while New York Law School's data "likely left some
consumers with an incomplete, if not false, impression of the
schools' job placement success," it did not rise to the level of
falsehood required for a claim under the state's general
"While we are troubled by the unquestionably less than
candid and incomplete nature of defendant's disclosures, a party
does not violate (the law) by simply publishing truthful
information and allowing consumers to make their own assumptions
about the nature of the information," wrote Justice Ronaldo
Acosta for a five-judge panel.
The decision upheld a March ruling from Acting Manhattan
Supreme Court Justice Melvin Schweitzer.
The lawsuit is one of more than a dozen filed against 15 law
schools in various states, including three others in New York --
at Albany Law School, Brooklyn Law School and the School of Law
at Hofstra University -- which are awaiting decisions on
Three lawsuits in Illinois and another in Michigan were
dismissed by trial courts, but two in California survived
motions to dismiss.
School officials have denied any wrongdoing, saying the jobs
data should not have been construed as a promise of employment.
In spite of affirming Schweitzer's decision, the First
Department said it was "not unsympathetic" to the students'
"We recognize that students may be susceptible to
misrepresentations by law school," Acosta wrote. "As a result,
they sometimes make decisions to yoke themselves and their
spouses and/or their children to a crushing burden because the
schools have made misleading representations that give the
impression that a full time job is easily obtainable when in
fact it is not."
He continued, "Given this reality, it is important to
remember that the practice of law is a noble profession that
takes pride in its high ethical standards.... Defendant and its
peers owe prospective students more than just barebones
compliance with their legal obligations."
Jesse Strauss, a lawyer for the plaintiffs who is also
helping to represent graduates in the other cases around the
country, said he will seek permission to bring the case to the
Court of Appeals.
"It really pops out at me that at various times the court
seems to say that the employment disclosures were misleading,
but not in a way that anyone could get compensated for," he
said. "To me, that cries out for a ruling from the Court of
Michael Volpe, a lawyer for the law school, said the
decision showed the claims "did not have any legal merit."
"As a proud graduate of a law school, I think it's the right
decision, and we're glad to put this stage of the litigation
behind us," he said.
The First Department panel included Justices David Friedman,
Sheila Abdus-Salaam, Sallie Manzanet-Daniels and Nelson Roman.
The case is Gomez-Jimenez v. New York Law School, Appellate
Division, First Department, No. 8110.
For the plaintiffs: Jesse Strauss, David Anziska and Frank
For the law school: Michael Volpe, Edmund O'Toole and
Michael Hartmere of Venable.
(A prior version of this story incorrectly identified the
lawsuit as a class action. It was a putative class action.)
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