Tuesday, March 06, 2012

O, My Felony is Rank

The Social Science  Research Network has just produced a paper by Morgan Cloud and George Shepherd, 'Law Deans in Jail'. Notice the absence of a question mark. Here is the abstract:

A most unlikely collection of suspects - law schools, their deans, U.S. News
& World Report and its employees - may have committed felonies by publishing
false information as part of U.S. News' ranking of law schools. The possible
federal felonies include mail and wire fraud, conspiracy, racketeering, and
making false statements. Employees of law schools and U.S. News who
committed these crimes can be punished as individuals, and under federal law
the schools and U.S. News would likely be criminally liable for their agents'
crimes. Some law schools and their deans submitted false information about the
schools' expenditures and their students' undergraduate grades and LSAT
scores. Others submitted information that may have been literally true but was
misleading. Examples include misleading statistics about recent graduates'
employment rates and students' undergraduate grades and LSAT scores. U.S.
News itself may have committed mail and wire fraud. It has republished, and
sold for profit, data submitted by law schools without verifying the data's
accuracy, despite being aware that at least some schools were submitting false
and misleading data. U.S. News refused to correct incorrect data and rankings
errors and continued to sell that information even after individual schools
confessed that they had submitted false information. In addition, U.S. News
marketed its surveys and rankings as valid although they were riddled with
fundamental methodological errors.

It is unlikely that we will ever see law school deans in jail. It seems that it would be necessary to show that there is a connection between the submission or publication (or failure to retract publication) of false or misleading information and monetary gain and that might be rather difficult to prove.

Also, the authors of the paper are from Emory University, a middling institution. If it ever did come to criminal proceedings you can bet that the big law schools would be lined up behind the rankings.

1 comment:

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