The ABA has given embattled Ave Maria School of Law permission to relocate to Florida. See the story below.
Embattled Law School Wins Approval for Controversial Move
New York Lawyer
February 19, 2009
By Karen Sloan
The National Law Journal
Embattled Ave Maria School of Law has won approval from the American Bar Association to relocate to Florida.
The ABA's "acquiescence," which allows the school to move from Ann Arbor, Mich., to Naples, Fla., means it will retain full accreditation after the relocation, which is slated to occur in early July.
It also clears the way for the school to apply for a license from the Florida Department of Education's Commission for Independent Education, which is needed for the school to grant degrees, according to a statement from Ave Maria School of Law.
"We are very excited and grateful to receive this news from the ABA, which is obviously a crucial step in our relocation process," said Roman Catholic philanthropist Thomas S. Monaghan, who founded the Ave Maria School of Law and is the chairman of its board of governors.
ABA spokeswoman Nancy Slonim declined to comment on the decision, citing confidentiality rules.
The ABA's decision appears to bring to a close a strange period for the Catholic law school — a time marked by controversy as well as faculty and student departures.
School officials announced in February 2007 that the institution would relocate to Southwest Florida. The school originally wanted to locate in a Catholic-oriented planned community called Ave Maria, near Naples, which was the brainchild of Monaghan, who founded the Domino's Pizza restaurant chain and formerly owned the Detroit Tigers.
But that plan proved costly, and the school now will move into an existing building in Naples. That decision came after the school failed to sell naming rights for a new building in the Ave Maria community.
The push to relocate was met with anger by some faculty members, who claimed that they were being mistreated and ignored by then-Dean Bernard Dobranski. In addition to issuing a vote of no confidence in the dean in 2006, some faculty members sent a formal complaint to the ABA.
According to the school, the new "Vineyards" campus will consist of five buildings on 12.5 acres, with more classrooms and seats than the school's Michigan campus. Students also will have the option to live on campus, which they cannot do right now. The Ave Maria School of Law currently has about 300 students.
"I believe that the school's new location will afford our students a wide range of opportunities for in-depth practical legal experience and skills training," said Acting Dean Eugene Milhizer. "Our externship program can flourish within a welcoming legal community, our clinical programs can grow and diversify as they serve those in need in southwest Florida, and our skills programs can be strengthened by involving the wealth of legal talent to be found in the surrounding communities."