Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Law school not liable for alleged breach of contract, other causes of action

The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit this morning affirmed a ruling by a trial court that granted summary judgment to the University of Dayton Law School on claims brought by a former law student for breach of contract, promissory estoppel, and various torts.

In that case, brought in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, a student had been suspended from the law school for at least three semesters for purported violations of the law school's honor code.

The plaintiff made multiple allegations, including that the law school's Honor Council denied him the opportunity to impeach the prosecution’s student-witnesses and that it misconstrued the Law School’s “Quiet Period” rule, applying terms explained in a school-wide email from the Registrar, rather than an alternate, oral explanation that
that a dean at the law school had given the student.

It is well-settled that a student-university relationship is contractual in nature. However, universities generally have the right to make policies affecting them. Courts therefore will not interfere with a private university’s right to make regulations, establish requirements, set scholastic standards, and enforce disciplinary rules absent “a clear abuse of discretion.” Schoppelrei v. Franklin Univ., 228 N.E.2d 334, 336 (Ohio Ct. App. 1967).

Here, the appellate court upheld the finding that the the university did not abuse its discretion and did not breach the contract. Similarly, the appeals court affirmed the decision of the trial court with respect to the other errors brought to it by the student.

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