Traverse City Record-Eagle

July 31, 2013

Cooley grads lose appeal over tuition, jobs

Associated Press

---- — DETROIT (AP) — Today’s lesson: Are graduates of the largest Michigan law school entitled to a tuition refund if they don’t find satisfactory jobs? Not according to a federal appeals court.

The court ruled Tuesday in a case involving a dozen unhappy graduates from Thomas M. Cooley Law School, which has campuses across Michigan and in Tampa, Fla.

The graduates claimed they were fooled by rosy employment statistics published by the school. The appeals court, however, said Michigan’s consumer protection law doesn’t apply, and the graduates put too much reliance on Cooley’s job survey of other graduates.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, 3-0, affirmed a similar decision by a federal judge in Grand Rapids.

“Our survey was reported accurately, not fraudulently. That’s the bottom line of the case,” said James Thelen, Cooley’s general counsel.

The graduates who sued Cooley said they had difficulty finding full-time, paid jobs. Shane Hobbs of Pennsylvania graduated in 2010 but has worked as a substitute teacher and at a golf course. Danny Wakefield of Utah graduated in 2007 but ended up managing the delivery of phone books, according to the 6th Circuit decision.

The Cooley graduates accused the school of fraud by reporting in 2010 that 76 percent of graduates were employed within nine months. The graduates claimed that should be interpreted as full-time positions requiring a law degree. But it actually included jobs outside law.

The appeals court said it wasn’t fraud because it wasn’t false.