Cooley Law School loses defamation suit against New York law firm
Cooley Law School has lost an appeal in their defamation lawsuit against a law firm that posted criticism of the school’s reporting of student debt on a popular law school message board.
The school had filed a $17 million lawsuit against Kurzon Strauss LLC, a New York firm, and two attorneys associated with the firm, Jesse Strauss and David Anziska, accusing them of posting defamatory statements on the popular law school message board “JD Underground“. The post said that federal regulators were investigating Cooley Law School over student loan default rates and employment for graduates.
Those statements were later retracted, but the firm then began preparing a proposed class-action lawsuit against the school, at which point Cooley filed its suit against the firm accusing them of defamation, breach of contract and interference with business relations, among other claims.
A trial court granted judgment to Kurzon Strauss before trial, saying that Cooley Law School was a “public figure” and therefore would have to prove that the firm acted with a disregard for the truth, a bar the court said Cooley could not clear
When in individual or entity is deemed to be a “limited public figure”, the theory is that such a person has greater access to the media, and therefore tell their side of the story. Therefore, when a limited public figure sues for defamation, they have a higher standard of proof to show that defamation. Specifically, they must show the person who allegedly defamed them acted with “actual malice” or “reckless disregard for the truth”.
Here, the court concluded that Cooley Law School would not be able to meet that burden.