Interesting cases this last week from the Supreme Court involved prayer in town hall meetings, mandatory restitution in a mortgage fraud case, and reversing a summary judgment in an excessive force case.
In Town of Greece v. Galloway the high court reversed the Second Circuit’s ruling that prayers offered at the beginning of town hall meetings violated the establishment clause because, even though they were open to all creeds, the prayers were predominantly offered by individuals of christian faiths incident to the fact that nearly all of the Congregations local to the town were christian. Justice Kennedy, delivered the 5-4 opinion of the court finding that the practice did not violate the establishment clause based on Marsh v. Chambers, 463 U. S. 783, thereby upholding the long history of legislative prayer as a non-coercive practice that is deeply rooted in the tradition and heritage of the U.S. legislative process.
The Court rejected the respondent’s position that only a generic or non-sectarian prayer to an unspecified God could be offered as such a policy would “force legislatures sponsoring prayers and the courts deciding these cases to act as supervisors and censors of religious speech…” Justice Kagan delivered a dissent joined by Ginsburg, Breyer and Sotomayor finding it persuasive that the prayers were all christian. Apparently ignorant of the fact that there are tens of thousands of different christian religions and several different denominations offered prayers for the Town of Greece, Kagan ironically writes about a lack of religious diversity by deftly painting all christian faiths with the same brush and even making several references to these many separate religions as the same single religion and faith.
In Robers v. United States the Court provided interpretation for the definition of property pursuant to the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act of 1996. The decision affected the proper calculation for restitution that Benjamin Robers was ordered to pay incident to his conviction for submitting fraudulent mortgage applications.
In Tolan v. Cotton, a suit against a police officer for excessive force in a shooting incident that was dismissed on summary judgement, the Court held that a reading of the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party precluded summary judgment based on the officer’s qualified immunity.
The news for law schools this week was dominated by articles addressing the still recently-released employment numbers for law school graduates. Below are a few interesting articles and posts from around the web.
Diving Into More Law School Employment Data From The WSJ, By Dan Filler, May 6, 2014 (The Faculty Lounge) – Noting that the average employment numbers when broken down by tiers of schools based on U.S. News Rankings (e.g. top 10, top 25 and top 50) can be fairly misleading as the elite schools included in those numbers greatly inflate the overall averages as outliers. The article also notes that any employment numbers should be analyzed in light of the many law school funded positions, which are particularly prevalent among schools in the top 10.
The Top 18 Law Schools for Placing Law Graduates in Florida Jobs, By John Treu (Fuller Law Blog) – Ranks the top law schools based on graduate employment in the State of Florida by number and also includes the total employment percentage for each law school included in the ranking.
Rookie [Law School Professor] Hiring 2013-14, By Brian Leitner, May 6, 2014 (Brian Leitner’s Law School Reports) – Noting that law school hiring continues to be dismally low at only 64 tenure-track junior faculty hires nationwide within the last year. The numbers, which are based on Sarah Lawsky’s annual record of law school hiring, are significantly down from the historical averages and the number of law professors required to sustain even a significantly fewer number of law schools than are currently in existence.
News agencies aren’t typically supposed to be making the news, but with law school rankings U.S. News takes a position at the front and center of an evolving legal education market by publishing the ever-important law school rankings. The weekly news was, as expected, dominated by these new rankings.
Boston College Law School Dean Responds to Drop in Law School Rankings – Noting that the law school was on track for many important initiatives but fell short in others that resulted in a ten spot drop in the law school’s ranking, the Dean acknowledged the importance of law school rankings in terms of the external perception for the school. Other Deans in the Boston area note some of the important limitations in the rankings, particularly for law schools succeeding in experiential learning rather than research and publications. Law school deans mull declines in U.S. News rankings, by Mary Moore (Boston Business Journal, March 17, 2014).
LSAT Test Takers Is on the Rise for First Time Since 2010 – The WSJ reports that LSAT test takers actually increased this year for the first time since 2010, although the numbers are still much lower than what law schools that struggling for survival with low enrollments would like to see. The increase was just 1.1% compared to double digit decreases in several prior years, which indicates the hemorrhaging may have finally stopped for the legal education industry. See For First Time Since 2010, Number of LSAT Test Takers is on the Rise, by Jacob Gershman (Wall Street Journal Law Blog, March 17, 2014).
Law Schools Continue to Pay Graduates to Boost Rankings – Law Schools continue to pay salaries to recent graduates following graduation to boost employment numbers for the U.S. News Rankings. University of Virginia and George Washington were among the worst offenders in using this tactic, with GW hiring a whopping 22% of their graduates to boost their employment numbers to 85% and Virginia hiring 15% of their graduates to boast employment numbers of 97.5%. See Some Law Schools Are Paying Graduates’ Salaries To Boost Rankings (Business Insider Australia, March 15, 2014).
2015 US News Law School Rankings Hit the Press – U.S. News releases its annual graduate school rankings including the highly anticipated law school rankings. The dramatic decreases in enrollments has shuffled a number of schools compared to prior years. See 2015 Law School Rankings (U.S. News, March 11, 2014)
Are you seeking to attend a prestigious law school, but concerned about your likelihood of admission? If so, the downward trend in qualitative metrics for admitted students from last year may give you hope.
The famed U.S. News Law School rankings are set to come out tomorrow and there may be some interesting movements based on the quantitative metrics from last year’s enrollment. The numbers that have already been released to the ABA regarding admitted students suggest that it is easier than ever to get into a prestigious law school for aspiring law students. Law schools have been faced with significantly fewer applications and, therefore, have had to decide whether to retain admissions standards and reduce enrollment or allow a dip in admissions standards in order to retain steady enrollment numbers. A reduction in admissions standards directly affects the law school’s U.S. News ranking. On average, LSAT scores for admitted students are down across all law schools by one point just from 2012 to 2013. A one point drop in LSAT scores across all admitted students in just one year is an enormous drop, which suggests that law schools are widely electing to lower admissions standards.
While law schools may be sweating out the current downturn in applications, if you are considering law school then this trend means you will likely be able to gain admission at a better law school than you otherwise would have if you applied 5 years ago. If you are a prospective law student then this is what you call a buyer’s market with law schools cutting tuition costs and re-considering ways to make law school more affordable and less risky.
The news for law schools this last week included another round of significant reductions in enrollments and the corresponding downward adjustment to selectivity in the admissions process. Also included is an interesting debate over affirmative action and the ever expanding executive power under the Obama presidency.
Law School Becomes Less Selective (GW Hatchet, March 3, 2014). Article chronicles how George Washington Law School has become significantly less selective in its admissions policies in order to maintain enrollment numbers.
Our view: Concerns about Obama’s use of executive power (Midland Daily News, March 2, 2014). Article expands on Law Professor Jonathan Turley’s concerns over President Obama’s use of executive power.
UMaine law school dean stepping down (Washington Times, March 1, 2014). University of Main’s law school dean is stepping down as dean effective June 2015, but will continue on staff as a professor.
Law School Hosts Debate on the Merits of Affirmative Action (The Harvard Crimson, February 28, 2014). The Harvard Federalist Society and the American Constitutional Society co-sponsored a debate on whether Affirmative Action programs in higher education does more harm than good.
Local Law School Enrollment Drops by Over 30% (Philadelphia Business Journal, February 27, 2014). Article notes the severe reduction in enrollments at law schools local to Philadelphia averaging over a 30% drop across all schools, although Penn saw a modest increase in enrollment.