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Charlotte Law School's Twisted Tale Has a Criminal Subplot

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By William Vogeler, Esq. on October 18, 2017 11:00 AM

Good stories, even the bad ones, have subplots.

Like the story of Charlotte School of Law. It's a bad story because it tells of greed, where the owners seemed to put profits over standards and led students and the school to failure.

It's also a good story because of subplots, with scores of students alleging the school tricked them to get their money. And now the twist: criminal investigators are looking for a smoking gun.

Civil Procedure

When the American Bar Association suspended Charlotte's accreditation for failing standards and the federal government withdrew student loans last year, the writing was on the wall. Even before Charlotte closed in August this year, law students were filing against the law school for misrepresenting its accreditation and bar pass rates.

A federal judge decided this month to consolidate three class actions. Judge Graham Mullen said it would unduly burden the court to manage different cases with basically the same claims: unjust enrichment, breach of fiduciary duty and constructive fraud.

"Any alleged differences are negligible and are greatly outweighed by the efficiencies gained by consolidation," he said in an order.

Meanwhile, there are at least 20 related state cases with more than 80 individual plaintiffs suing the school. And then there was the lawsuit no one saw coming, even though it was filed more than a year ago.

Criminal Procedure

Professor Barbara Bernier filed a whistle-blower suit, which had been sealed under the False Claims Act. She alleged the school was evading federal laws that require for-profit schools receive at least 10 percent of their revenue from sources other than federal student loans.

Under the Act, the federal government may intervene. Prosecutors have decided to watch from the sidelines, however, and recently asked the court to unseal the case.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reported, a criminal investigation is ongoing.

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