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Law School Gets a Second Chance

National bar association tells Western State that it will reconsider yanking accreditation, but the Fullerton college's lawyer isn't optimistic.

By Jeff Gottlieb
Times Staff Writer

February 14, 2004

The American Bar Assn. has sent a letter to Western State University College of Law in Fullerton saying it will reconsider its decision to pull the for-profit school's accreditation.

The ABA's Section on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar will hold a rare special meeting March 28 near Chicago's O'Hare Airport to discuss Western State's status.

But Don Daucher, Western State's attorney, said Friday that he wished the ABA had been receptive to the school's argument that it deserved to retain accreditation.

"I don't think there's anything to be encouraged about," he said.

The section recommended in December that the school lose its national accreditation.

The accreditation status means three things to a law school: It boosts prestige, helps in recruiting students and enables graduates to take the bar examination anywhere in the country.


Western State sued, and a federal judge in Santa Ana granted a temporary injunction last week preventing the ABA from withdrawing the accreditation.

In papers filed this week with U.S. District Judge Gary L. Taylor, the ABA said that in view of its reconsideration, Western State's case should be dismissed.

The next court date is scheduled for Feb. 24.

The ABA legal education section made up of 24 lawyers, judges, deans and professors was concerned about Western's dropout rate, the number of its students passing the bar exam and their scores on the Law School Aptitude Test.

Western has argued that it is improving and that it ranks better in those criteria than some accredited schools.

In 1998, the school received provisional ABA accreditation, which usually leads to full approval within five years. An ABA spokeswoman said no one at the attorneys group can recall a school losing its provisional status.

Western will have a chance to make its case before the legal education section again.

"We're giving the school an opportunity to tell the council in what ways they think the council had it wrong," said Darryl DePriest, the ABA's general counsel.

The ABA has no procedure to appeal a decision by the legal education section.

Any decision to pull Western's accreditation would have to be voted on by its House of Delegates, which meets in August.

If the delegates disagree with the decision, they could send it back to the section for reconsideration. But the section has final say.