Judge dismisses employment numbers lawsuit

It’s not looking good for law school students suing their alma maters for misrepresenting post-graduation employment numbers.

Since employment for law school graduates started to slide with the downturn of the economy, a number of class-action suits have popped up around the country as students claim schools skewed graduates’ employment numbers to attract new students.

The latest setback for these kinds of cases came last week when a federal judge in Michigan dismissed a case brought against the Thomas M. Cooley Law School by 12 graduates. The judge rejected claims of fraud, saying the employment numbers were confusing and unclear but not fraudulent. The judge also said the school did not violate the Michigan Consumer Protection Act, since the act doesn’t protect the purchase of an education.

A similar case was dismissed in New York in March, but there are 12 other fraud class-action suits against law schools pending across the country.

The news comes in the wake of new employment numbers for law schools released last month. The statistics were divided by the type of employment for the first time this year. Nationwide, 83 percent found employment, but only 55 percent were permanent jobs that required bar admission. (At both Maryland law schools, around 47 percent found permanent jobs with bar admission required.)

Updates on the secret Shapiro settlement

Keith Merryman

Keith Merryman

While Baltimore City Solicitor George A. Nilson and Steven Kupferberg, the attorney for mistakenly arrested violinist Yakov Shapiro, still differ as to the origin of the confidentiality of their settlement, allow me to offer a few updates related to the case.

There’s been a strong reader reaction to the story of Shapiro’s travail — which started when a detective investigating claims of child molestation by Yisroel Shapiro posted a warrant for Yakov Shapiro — and the city’s efforts to keep it quiet. While many Baltimore elected officials have kept to themselves about the questions the case raises about government transparency and training at the police department, a few city council members have spoken up:

  • Baltimore City Councilwoman Belinda Conaway, who has taken an interest in the costs of police negligence, said last summer she understood the need for such a confidential settlement “under extraordinary circumstances, once in a blue moon.” But, she said, “this should not happen again anytime soon.” Last week, after finally hearing the details of the Shapiro case, her first reaction was “Oh my God.”

“It’s a terrible, terrible thing to happen and I would hope the necessary steps are taken so something like this doesn’t happen again,” she said. “A settlement is nice but there’s no way that that settlement can undo the damage that was done.”

“If we could all walk away from this with one lesson learned, I would hope that it would be a shared recognition of the importance of transparency in government proceedings,” Henry wrote in an e-mail Wednesday evening. “Perhaps the Board of Estimates needs to develop a better policy of how to deal with confidentiality concerns when allocating City funds. Perhaps we should be trying to record and broadcast not only the actual Board of Estimates proceedings, but the mini-meetings ahead of time when more detailed briefings are given for many of the issues before the Board.

“The Administration has claimed to be supportive of this initiative of the Council President’s (recording and broadcasting B/E meetings, Liquor Board hearings, and BMZA hearings),” Henry continued, “but also claims to be unable to come up with the operating funds needed – less than $50K – leading to the reasonable suspicion that they must be sufficiently comfortable with the status quo.”

Mr. Kupferberg has shielded Yakov Shapiro from press inquiries but he described his client’s reaction to the stories published in yesterday’s paper.

“Yakov was in here today, and I asked him if he wanted to speak to you and he started to cry,” Kupferberg said by phone from his office. “I showed him the story, and he just teared up.”

One detail I wasn’t able to determine before we published Tuesday evening was the identity of the judge who presided over Shapiro’s bail review that November morning three years ago. Well, it seems the voice on the recording was that of C. Yvonne Holt-Stone. According to an e-mail from Baltimore City District Court Administrative Judge John R. Hargrove Jr., Judge Holt-Stone was on the schedule for that morning at Central Booking, where Hargrove says Shapiro’s bail review took place. Holt-Stone, who has been on the city district court bench since 1991 is on leave through the end of the year and could not be reached to confirm her part in the case.

The other person I’ve yet to hear from is Baltimore City Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III. He was at the White House yesterday and is out of the office through Christmas, according to his spokesman.

I’m less optimistic about ever hearing from Detective Keith Merryman (who posted the warrant for Yakov Shapiro instead of the real offender, Yisroel Shapiro) or police lawyer Neal M. Janey Jr., who negotiated the settlement, but stay tuned on those fronts.

Artist's court sketch of Yisroel Shapiro (left, with glasses and Kippah)

Finally, if you’re interested in learning more about Yisroel Shapiro and how his misdeeds came to light in the generally close-knit and tight-lipped Orthodox Jewish community, have a look at Standing Silent, a documentary that will premier at the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival in February. Phil Jacobs, the executive editor of the Baltimore Jewish Times who has covered the topic extensively, stars in the film.

Thanks for reading and Happy Holidays!

NU cries foul over Terps win

The Maryland Terrapins’ women’s lacrosse team won the national championship Memorial Day weekend, beating Northwestern University 13-11. The victory clinched the Terps’ record 10th title and broke the Wildcats’ five-year run as champions.

Now, I can’t say I’m a big fan of women’s lacrosse. But I am a proud Maryland alum, and I’ll always pull for the sports teams.

So I was surprised when I read earlier this week that Northwestern had sent a “letter of inquiry” to the NCAA alleging official shenanigans (literally) aided Maryland’s victory. Northwestern claims that a veteran referee, Pat Dillon, talked with the championship game officiating crew prior to the final. The problem, according to NU, is that Dillon’s longtime partner, Sandy Worth, is Maryland’s head athletic trainer.

According to the NCAA, Dillon mentioned her Maryland connections on a disclosure form, which means she cannot work any Terps games.

But Dillon, a Hall of Fame referee, was part of the crew that officiated Northwestern’s victory in the semifinals, an assignment NU had unsuccessfully asked the NCAA to remove her from.

My first reaction was two words: Sore. Losers. But then I imagined the shoe on the other paw, so to speak: if Dillion was in a relationship with someone connected to the Northwestern team, I imagine Maryland’s athletic department would be just as upset.

While I doubt a Hall of Fame referee would try to unduly influence her colleagues moments before the biggest game of the year, as NU alleges, it seems the general point about conflict of interest merits further investigation.

I guess that’s a question that will have to be addressed for next season – when the Terps will be defending their championship.

Will the real Goliath please stand up?

Before the pretrial motions hearing began Thursday in the City Hall corruption probe cases, State Prosecutor Robert A. Rohrbaugh joked with the assembled press corps about the defendants’ horde of attorneys and his office’s meager resources.

“Look at how many lawyers they have,” he said. “This is our entire office.” (The entire legal staff anyway; the office’s investigators were not present.)

Dixon’s defense lawyer, Arnold M. Weiner, saw the situation differently.

“It’s hard to feel sympathy for a prosecutor who conducts a multi-year investigation with a full staff of investigators and assistants and who comes into court with four of them and then complains he doesn’t have the resources to do the case that he’s brought,” Weiner said.

So, where do your sympathies lie?

“It’s called disclosha, ya —head!”

Montgomery County State’s Attorney John J. McCarthy is a bit of a movie aficionado. In my story in this week’s Maryland Lawyer, he said discovery rules that take effect July 1, requiring prosecutors to disclose a host of information without so much as a request by the defense remind him of a scene in the 1992 movie, “My Cousin Vinny.”

In the scene, the title character, an inexperienced criminal defense attorney, played by Joe Pesci, thinks he has tricked the prosecutor into surrendering information helpful to his client. Vinny’s ego is quickly deflated by his fiancée, played by Marisa Tomei, when she tells him — in no uncertain terms – that the prosecutor was required to give him the information.

Been a while since you’ve seen it? Refresh your recollection here.

STEVE LASH, Legal Affairs Writer