Thomas M. Cooley Law School loses heavy-handed attempt to sue for defamation
The Cooley Law School is the largest in the country, with five campuses in Michigan and Florida and more than 3500 students. A young lawyer named David Anziska wrote a blog entry in which he criticized the school for "blatantly manipulating [their] post-graduate employment and salary data." He alleged the school was "preying on the blithe ignorance of naive, clueless 22-year-olds who have no idea what a terrible investment what a JD degree is." He suggested that there were reports of 41 percent of students defaulting on student loans after failing to find appropriate professional jobs.
Cooley threatened Anziska with legal action. Although he filed a formal retraction of any factual errors, Anziska distributed a proposed class action complaint among a number of recent graduates, apparently contemplating a legal action against Cooley. Cooley then sued him for defamation. The trial judge granted summary disposition against Cooley and it appealed. The higher court agreed with the trial judge that Cooley was a "limted-purpose" public figure, making Anziska's comments actionable only if he displayed actual malice and disregard for the truth. Cooley could not raise on appeal its argument that the case involved a "commercial speech" issue because Cooley's lawyers failed to raise the issue in a timely manner. [Cooley grads or teachers, one wonders?]