Tamanaha on Duncan and the ABA

January 6th, 2012

I previously blogged about the odd timing of Duncan’s denial of ABA accreditation.

Tamanaha has more information:

As it turns out, however, the story left out crucial information.

Duncan had been notified by the ABA on October 12, 2011, in a 23-page Recommendation with fact findings, that the Accreditation Committee “concluded that Duncan had not established substantial compliance with four separate Standards.” Under ABA rules, although the Council makes the final decision, there is a presumption that “the Council shall adopt the Committee’s findings of fact unless the Council determines that they are not supported by substantial evidence in the record.” The ABA Consultant on Legal Education, Hulett Askew, had a follow-up meeting with the Dean of Duncan on October 27, 2011, advising the school of its options in light of the negative recommendation. (This information is taken from the sworn statement of Askew, available here.)

None of this is mentioned in the story. The Times does not say that Duncan had already received a negative recommendation from the Accreditation Committee. It is not quite true that Duncan had no “hint” of its likely fate, since a presumption attaches to the Committee finding and the exchange at the Dec. 2nd meeting had a critical tenor. And Duncan administrators were well aware of the reasons behind the negative recommendation, reasons which were not mentioned in the story. In light of this, it appears likely that Duncan officials already anticipated that they would be denied accreditation when they spoke with the Times reporter.

The Times account would have read very differently had readers been advised of the preliminary findings against the school.

So what does this mean?

I will elaborate on those findings in a moment, but first one must wonder why this crucial information was omitted from the story. One possibility is that Duncan administrators did not tell the reporter, David Segal, about the Committee’s negative finding. That would be shocking if true. It would suggest that Duncan law school used the Times to help it mount a preemptive public campaign against the ABA before the negative finding came to light. Another possibility is also shocking: that Segal knew about the negative findings but deliberately failed to mention them because to do so would disrupt his story line.

Perhaps there is some other more innocent explanation for this omission, but whatever happened, it does not reflect well on the credibility and reliability of the Times.

Mirrors my original comments:

Is it Segal’s inaccuracy? Or did Duncan just want to gin up some dust before the denial? The timing is too close to call.