By Daniel Wiessner
ALBANY, N.Y., Jan 4 (Reuters) - A state judge has dismissed
a $50 million lawsuit brought by Albany Law School graduates who
claimed their alma mater published misleading employment data.
Acting Supreme Court Justice Richard Platkin on Thursday
rejected the claims of four recent graduates that the data was
misleading because it included any type of employment, not just
jobs in the legal field. The plaintiffs had sought class action
status on behalf of all students who attended Albany Law between
February 2006 and February 2012.
"Given the elaborate and somewhat subjective nature of
plaintiffs' definition of 'employment,' it is difficult to
envision how they could reasonably have expected any single
published statistic to comport with all of their assumptions and
expectations regarding legal employment," Platkin wrote.
Jesse Strauss, who is representing the plaintiffs, said on
Friday that he would appeal.
Albany Law Dean Penelope Andrews said in a statement on
Friday that the school is gratified with the decision.
The Albany Law suit is one of 15 similar actions filed
nationwide, including three others in New York -- against New
York Law School, Brooklyn Law School and Hofstra Law School,
said Strauss, who is representing the plaintiffs in 14 of the
The Appellate Division, First Department, last month upheld
the dismissal of a $200 million lawsuit against New York Law
for publishing allegedly misleading job data. Strauss said he is
seeking leave to appeal that ruling.
Four other suits against schools have been dismissed but are
on appeal, he said. The rest are awaiting decisions on motions
to dismiss or are proceeding to discovery, Strauss said.
The lawsuits generally allege fraud and misrepresentation,
as well as violations of state business laws, on behalf of
proposed classes of law school alumni. Most of the schools,
including Albany, have refuted the claims, saying that job data
does not constitute a promise of future employment.
NOT GENERAL CONSUMERS
In the Albany case, the graduates claimed that when they
enrolled, they relied on salary and employment data published on
the school's website, including a claim that 90 percent or more
of students in recent graduating classes were employed within
nine months of graduation, Platkin said.
The employment data was misleading, according to the
complaint, because it included students who had secured only
temporary or part-time employment, or jobs outside the legal
The graduates claim in the complaint they had been unable to
secure permanent, full-time legal employment since graduation.
Two have had temporary jobs as lawyers, one worked as a clerk at
a law firm and the other has not found a job in the legal field,
The suit alleges that Albany Law violated Section 349 of the
state General Business Law, which prohibits the publishing of
information that is "likely to mislead a reasonable consumer,"
as well as section 350, which holds businesses liable for
damages incurred as a result of false advertising.
In dismissing the claims, Platkin distinguished law students
from general consumers, saying they are "a reasonably
well-educated group of consumers who are called upon to make
major life decisions." As a result, he said, the decision to
enroll at a particular school should be informed by more than a
single set of employment statistics.
Platkin, who graduated as valedictorian of Albany Law in
1993, declined in September to recuse himself from the case. The
plaintiffs had argued that he might have knowledge of the
employment landscape for Albany Law graduates apart from the
facts presented in the case. The judge disagreed and found he
could remain impartial.
Henry Greenberg, who represented the school, said on Friday
that Platkin's ruling was exceptionally well reasoned and that
he was confident it would be affirmed if an appeals court hears
The case is Matthew Austin v. Albany Law School of Union
University, New York State Supreme Court, Albany County, No.
For the plaintiffs: Jesse Strauss, David Anziska and Frank
For Albany Law: Henry Greenberg, Cynthia Neidl and Josh
Oppenheimer of Greenberg Traurig.
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