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MASSACHUSETTS SCH. OF LAW AT ANDOVER, INC. v. ABA

August 29, 1996

MASSACHUSETTS SCHOOL OF LAW AT ANDOVER, INC.
v.
AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION, et al.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: DITTER

 Ditter, J.

 August 29, 1996

 I. INTRODUCTION

 For many years, the American Bar Association has evaluated law schools using a set of standards it has developed for that purpose. The Massachusetts School of Law brought this antitrust action against the American Bar Association, the Law School Admission Council, Law School Admission Services, *fn1" and the Association of American Law Schools *fn2" after ABA denied it provisional accreditation. MSL alleges that the defendants violated the Sherman Act by restraining trade with anticompetitive policies *fn3" and conspiring to monopolize, and monopolizing the law school training field, the accreditation of law schools, and the licensing of lawyers. *fn4" It seeks treble damages, interest, and costs. It does not seek accreditation as part of this lawsuit.

 MSL maintains that some of the standards that ABA uses to inform its accreditation decisions violate the Sherman Act. Plaintiff's restraint of trade claim rests on its contention that the ABA's adoption and approval of the standards have the purpose and effect of artificially enhancing faculty salaries, limiting the services of law school professors, imposing unnecessarily costly guidelines for law school libraries, increasing law school tuitions, and "freezing out of law school persons from lower socio-economic classes and persons in mid-life." Plaintiff's monopolization claim is based on its contention that the defendants have worked in concert, using some of the ABA's standards, to monopolize the law school training, accreditation, and licensing processes.

 Before me is ABA's motion for summary judgment. *fn5" It contends that judgement should be entered in its favor for six independent reasons: (1) MSL's alleged injury stems exclusively from the bar admissions rules of the sovereign states, not the ABA standards; (2) MSL cannot demonstrate an injury to competition between or among law schools generally resulting from the ABA's decision not to accredit MSL; (3) MSL cannot demonstrate that the ABA standards that it is challenging were the cause-in-fact of its injuries; (4) the antitrust laws do not apply to the non-commercial aspects of higher education; (5) even examining the particular challenged standards under a rule of reason analysis, no triable issue exists and judgment is proper as a matter of law; and (6) the conspiracy alleged by plaintiff is illogical and makes no economic sense. For the reasons discussed below, I will grant ABA's motion.

 II. STATEMENT OF FACTS

 MSL is a Massachusetts corporation that has been operating a law school in Andover, Massachusetts, since 1988. In 1990, MSL was authorized by the board of regents of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to award the degree of juris doctor to its graduates. That authority enables plaintiff's graduates to sit for several bar examinations, including Massachusetts'.

 Following its usual procedure when making accreditation decisions, ABA sent a site evaluation team to examine MSL's program. Based on that team's factual report about MSL and MSL's response, ABA denied MSL provisional accreditation. A series of appeals taken by MSL were fruitless.

 MSL maintains that its failure to secure ABA accreditation handicaps the school in competing for students because its graduates cannot take the bar examinations of 42 states, and the school has been generally stigmatized by the denial. (Compl. PP18, 41; Velvel Dep., 8/25/94, at 30:1-15).

 In summary, this case concerns the evaluation of educational philosophies, methods, and facilities. ABA's refusal to approve that of which it disapproves and MSL's demand to differ but be accepted as though it conformed -- or as though ...


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