ABA lifts sanctions on Ave Maria law school

By Michael McGrady | Mar 2, 2018

NAPLES, Fla. -- Ave Maria School of Law was given good news earlier this month as the Council of the American Bar Association’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions lifted several remedial actions that the body placed on the institution in 2016. 

“The council affirmed the committee’s conclusions and removed the requirements of the specific remedial actions imposed on the Law School,” according to the decision, dated Feb. 9-10, 2018. “Ave Maria School of Law remains an approved law school.”

David Frakt, a Florida lawyer familiar with the accreditation process, told the Florida Record this announcement is good news for Ave Maria. 

“I think the practical effect is that Ave Maria can remove the information from their website that they were forced to undertake remedial actions so they can now advertise that they are in full compliance with all ABA standards,” Frakt said. “This should make it easier for them to attract qualified applicants and further raise the entrance credentials of their admitted students for the entering class of 2018.

“The law school will next be up for re-accreditation by the ABA in the 2022-23 academic year.  My guess is the school will try to continue to grow in size, work on improving bar passage rates and enhancing their reputation in the region, and also try to put itself on a firmer financial footing by increasing enrollment and decreasing the percentage of students receiving very large tuition discounts.”

Before the affirmation of compliance, Ave Maria was charged by an ABA accreditation council decision that concluded the institution was out of compliance with Standard 501(a) and 501(b). 

According to the ABA, Standard 501(a) governs the rules mandating that all law schools must have “sound admissions policies and practices” that reflect the school’s mission and objectives. Consequently, Standard 501(b) similarly mandates that the school should admit and mold candidates who demonstrate the capability of completing a rigorous “legal education program and being admitted to the bar.” 

Ave Maria failed to comply with these standards which resulted in a public notice from the council of the ABA mandating the school commit to re-compliance through the pathway of completing and persisting with specific tasks. 

The remedial actions mandated by the council included the creation of a written and reliable plan that will put Ave Maria back into compliance, report on admissions standards and overall academic achievement at the institution, among other actions. According to the ABA Journal, Ave Maria met compliance standards several times meriting an end to the current sanctions against the institution. 

“In my view, it is unfair to admit students with extremely poor prospects for success, so supported the ABA taking action,” Frakt said. “The ABA’s intervention, along with the hiring of dean and President Kevin Cieply, gave the school the impetus to get turned around and headed in the right direction.  After three years of steady improvement in the standards of its admitted students, and a sharp reduction in the number of very high-risk students being admitted, I believe it was appropriate for the ABA to remove the remedial action requirements and additional oversight.”

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