COA to hear John Doe appeal in Cooley Law School suit

The Michigan Court of Appeals agreed to hear an appeal from John Doe 1, also known as Rockstar05, who is being sued by The Thomas M. Cooley Law School.

Doe is fighting to keep his identity a secret after he posted under his Rockstar pen name a blog post that was highly critical of Cooley’s business practices. He wrote the post early in 2011 after Cooley devised and published a national ranking system of all the law schools in the country, and ranked itself second behind only Harvard Law School.

Doe called the school a “diploma mill,” and an expensive one at that. Cooley sued.

But Doe said that he has the right to protect his free and anonymous speech. The law school knows who Doe is, and has known since August 2011. But if the courts agree that he can remain anonymous, Cooley can’t name him in the lawsuit.

Doe’s attorney, Berkley-based attorney John Hermann, said he feels encouraged that the Court of Appeals has granted leave. The case is important, Hermann said, because it “represents some free speech issues that we deal with in this electronic communication era.”

The Court granted media companies Gannett Co. Inc., Scripps Media Inc., The Detroit News, The Macomb Daily and The Rail — and the Michigan Press Association to file amicus briefs.

Aside from the First Amendment implications, there’s a great wonky angle to this case. Late in 2011, Cooley General Counsel James Thelen told Michigan Lawyers Weekly that if the Court allows Doe to remain anonymous, it would be sliding down a slippery slope of rewriting Michigan Court Rules and pleading standards by forcing a defamed plaintiff to prove its case before being entitled to seek discovery, as provided in Michigan law. (Subscribers can read the story here.) It would also need to look up in the dictionary the definition of “anonymous,” since Thelen, the law school and outside counsel at Miller Canfield already know who Doe is (he’s a former student, and Doe’s blog’s web host inadvertently gave Miller Canfield his identifying information).

Doe is asking the Court to apply the Dendrite standard, from Dendrite International v. Does, which requires a plaintiff to give notice to the potential defendant and give an opportunity for Doe to defend his anonymity; specify the statements that allegedly violate the plaintiff’s rights; plead a claim that could survive a motion to dismiss; and produce evidence supporting each element of the claim.

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Justice from Israel’s high court makes metro Detroit appearance

As part of a one-and-a-half-week U.S. tour, Justice Salim Joubran of the Supreme Court of Israel will be visiting Auburn Hills campus of the Thomas M. Cooley Law School.

At his 1 p.m. May 3 appearance, he’ll be speaking on “The Israeli Judicial System and the Role of the Supreme Court.” The event is open to the public, and is being held in conjunction with the American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, which is sponsoring Joubran’s U.S. visit.

The tour and presentation, according to the AAJLJ, is meant to have judges, lawyers, legal academics and law students learn more about the important role of the rule of law in Israel; the strength and diversity of its judiciary; and the challenges facing the legal system — as seen from the viewpoint of the first permanent member of the Supreme Court from the Israeli Arab community.

Seating is limited, and reservations are recommended. To learn more, contact Julie Tiffany at tiffanyj@cooley.edu or (248) 751-7873, Ext. 7784.

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Cooley Law School: ‘We’re number 2!’

From this morning’s Lansing State Journal:

In the most recent edition of “Judging the Law Schools,” Thomas M. Cooley Law School is ranked No. 2 in the nation, second to Harvard but solidly ahead of Yale (which came in 10th), the University of Michigan (12th) and Stanford (30th).

It is the first time Cooley has cracked the top 10. The last time the rankings were released, in 2009, it came in at No. 12. In 1996, the year Cooley founder Thomas Brennan began producing Judging the Law Schools, it ranked a modest 72nd.

In the ranking’s introduction, Brennan and Don LeDuc, Cooley’s president and dean, write

that while total objectivity is not possible in any comparison and that the selection of criteria on which to base a comparison is itself subjective, Judging was designed intentionally to use only objective data in its comparison. …

The intent is to provide an objective, data-based alternative to the subjectivity of the U.S. News and World Report rankings.

Cooley is “unranked” in the 2010 U.S. News and World Report rankings. The publication explains that “School did not supply enough information to U.S. News to calculate a ranking.”

Cooley’s methodology and complete rankings are contained in
Judging the Law Schools.

Want to create your own rankings based on factors you select? Check out The Ranking Game.