Student, attorney talk about class-action suit against Savannah Law School

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - The number of students joining a class-action lawsuit filed last week against Savannah Law School keeps growing.

Monday, we learned the number jumped from seven at the end of last week - to just over two dozen.

Two local firms are taking up the effort on behalf of the law students, many of whom are wondering what their future holds following last weeks news that the school will soon close.

Last week, the school released a statement saying in part that the Board of Directors of Atlanta's John Marshall Law School were prompted to make the decision to close because of small student enrollment at the branch.

Savannah Law School operates under Atlanta's John Marshall Law School. The school told students they will do what is called a teach-out, keeping the building open until students graduate in May.

When Savannah Law School closes, there is supposed to be a local option for students who aren't able to transfer to the Atlanta branch to finish their studies. 
Students have yet to learn where that will be for the summer and fall term, or who will even teach those classes. In addition to all that, students joining the suit are trying to find out how long school leaders knew they would be closing.

"Just answers. How long have y'all known about this? Because I know it's longer than you're leading on, that you're telling us that you just found out that the school was going to sell last week. There's just no way. So really answers to all of our questions, and they're answers we deserve to know," said 3rd year SLS student, Katie Fitzpatrick. "You're telling us that you just found out that the school was going to sell last week. There's just no way, so really, answers to all of our questions, and they're answers that we deserve to know. And then, obviously we're all in debt up to our eyeballs, and we would like to be compensated for that, that you know, there's a possibility we don't get J.D. degrees at the end of this. We would like to be compensated for that."

Katie Fitzpatrick is a third year Savannah Law School student who will soon be joining the class-action suit.

"It's definitely a different vibe at school. Everyone is definitely shocked and just very emotional," she said.

Like many non-traditional students at SLS, Fitzpatrick's family has put down roots in Savannah, and the prospect of finishing her education in Atlanta - an option offered by the school upon closing - isn't an option.

"I'm almost to the point where I'm tired of thinking about it, but it's all I think about," Fitzpatrick said.

Friday, the 21-page class-action lawsuit was filed on behalf of the law school students in State Court, accusing leaders with Atlanta's John Marshall Law School of negligence, breach of contract, negligent misinterpretation and civil conspiracy.

After talking to students, attorneys filing the suit believe Savannah Law School may have used what they called a deflated curve. To keep scholarships gr anted by the school, students had to keep a certain GPA. That, with the curve, was out of reach for many, according to attorneys filing the lawsuit.

"They know full well when they give out the scholarship, it's essentially an inducement to come that they know nobody or at least half the people aren't going to be able to keep, and as a result, you get here, you're on likely after one semester to just pack up and go back home. They know full well what's going to happen is, you're going to go out and get loans, and that's what most people were doing, and the school benefits from that because those loans that the federal government backs, the tuition is paid to the law school," said Attorney Jeff Harris, Harris Lowry Manton.

We've reached out to Dean Malcolm Morris, who leads both Atlanta's John Marshall Law School and Savannah Law School for comment on the schools closing and have yet to hear back.

Harris and his partnering attorneys are encouraging anyone with knowledge of what's happening with the school closure, not only students, but also faculty and administrators, to come forward with that information.

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