bad grades in law school? can't get a job? just sue!
Altschuler v. University of Pennsylvania Law Sch., 1997 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 3248
Plaintiff Albert Altschuler asserts various constitutional, federal statutory, and state law claims against the University of Pennsylvania Law School (from which he graduated), its dean, one of its professors, the University of Pennsylvania, its president, its trustees, and various "John Does" employed by or agents of the university (collectively "the university defendants"). He also asserts state law claims against Brach, Eichler, Rosenberg, Silver, Bernstein, Hammer & Gladstone, P.C. ("Brach Eichler"), a New Jersey law firm where he applied for a job and was rejected, and against various "Jane Does" employed by or agents of that firm (collectively "the Brach Eichler defendants"). His claims against the university defendants relate to a dispute he had with a law school instructor over an assignment in a law school class, to the way his performance in that class is reflected in the law school's records and on his transcript, and to statements made by a law school [*2] employee or employees ("John Does") to one or more members of Brach Eichler's hiring committee ("Jane Does"). His claims against Brach Eichler relate to the repetition of those statements by "Jane Does" to others.
Plaintiff, a citizen of Connecticut with residences in Connecticut and New Jersey, was a student at the University of Pennsylvania Law School from 1990 to 1993. As part of his first-year curriculum, he took a required "Legal Writing/ Moot Court" class taught by third-year law students, with defendant Elizabeth Slusser Kelly, a law school professor, serving as the director of the class.
In February of 1991, plaintiff became embroiled in a dispute with Professor Kelly over an assignment in that class. The class had been directed to write a brief and present oral argument for a hypothetical case. Plaintiff raised moral and ethical objections to representing "side A" in the case, and requested that he be reassigned to represent "side B." His student instructor refused, as did Professor Kelly. A few weeks later, [*4] however, the student instructor told plaintiff that Professor Kelly would let him write a brief and present oral argument for both sides. Plaintiff agreed and wrote a brief for each side. Professor Kelly then "in breach of the Agreement" refused to schedule plaintiff for oral argument for both sides, and scheduled him only for "side A." (Amended Complaint at P 55.) Plaintiff refused to present oral argument for "side A," and Professor Kelly gave him a failing grade. She explained that grade in a memorandum that was later made part of his law school record.
Plaintiff sought review of that grade with the law school dean, Colin Diver, and also with other law school and university officials. At the direction of the law school faculty, Dean Diver appointed a faculty committee, which later reported that Professor Kelly had acted within her discretion.
Before and after his graduation from law school in May of 1993, plaintiff sent out hundreds of resumes to law firms, many of which required a copy of his law school transcript. Although he was president of his law school class, he was unable to procure full-time employment, unlike the majority of his classmates.