Defamation case against student unlikely here

A defamation case launched by a US law school against a former student would be unlikely to happen here, the University of Law has said.

Michigan’s Court of Appeals has ruled in favour of the ex law student who lambasted his former school Thomas M Cooley Law School on the internet.

Sarah Hutchinson, business development director at the University of Law, said that she could not anticipate circumstances regarding student comments in which the university or another UK insitution would ever take similar steps.

She said: “Unless it was a vitriolic attack against an individual member of staff or student, then we would take steps to protect the individual. In the UK, for the case to stack up, it would have to be more than a generic rubbishing. If people take recourse to anonymous blogging, it is not good business sense to take a legalistic approach. The first thing is to find out if you can resolve the issue.”

The student, known only as Doe 1, was defended by Paul Levy of the Public Citizen litigation organisation after the law school filed a complaint against him due to his anonymous blog, on which he wrote about Cooley between 2011-12.

In 2011, Doe 1 wrote: “The assertion by Thomas M. Cooley of its status as the second best law school in America is as ludicrous as asserting that I am the second smartest man in America.”

The Court of Appeals has now granted the appeal and Doe 1 will now be able to attempt to dismiss the complaint. He may cite the school’s lack of evidence to uphold its claim that the blog is defamatory.

It is extremely rare for a university to sue a student although a German university is currently suing a student for graduating too quickly, claiming loss of earnings. Essen’s School of Economics and Management is suing Marcel Pohl because he completed his bachelors and masters degrees in a quarter of the normal time.

Last month, the Solicitors Regulation Authority issued a deadline reminder for potential legal practice course students with “character and suitability issues” (28 March 2013).