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Law, culture, and Catholicism...up in smoke!

Friday, August 31, 2007

What Kind of Ranking Is the "Law School 100"?

Today, Dean Dobranski sent out an email to the whole Ave Maria Law community entitled "Letter to Ave Maria Community." The email mentions the school's new upcoming website, and Dobranski's Above the Law and CNS interviews. Then Dobranski says this:
Finally, as you know, law school rankings are very popular, the most prominent of which, of course, is U.S. News and World Report. All rankings are, in one way or another, subjective, and should be viewed in that light. Recently, I have become aware of a new ranking. Law School 100, a web site sponsored by Law TV, ranks Ave Maria number 75 in the nation. An affiliated organization, lawschool.com, ranks Ave Maria number 21 on its list of the 25 most underrated law schools in the country. The Law School 100 web site claims it uses a qualitative rather than a quantitative system for its rankings. If interested, you may view these at: www.lawschool.com/underrated and http://www.lawschool100.com/.

Does anyone know what this "lawschool100.com" ranking is? The website is garish, full of advertisements, and looks like it was made by a fourth-grader with ADHD. The website claims that it is "based on qualitative, rather than quantitative, criteria" but there is no description of what this criteria is. (Personally, I think the "qualitative" criteria is what law school was "cool" in the mind of the fourth-grade webmaster.) The website's link to the US News & World Reports rankings is to a similarly unprofessional site that hasn't been touched for more than 2 years because it still lists the 2005 rankings. Is this lawschool100.com a completely bogus and worthless list of rankings, or I am missing something?

Fumed by Thales at 5:44 PM. |

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Mirror of Justice Reports on Safranek's Intimidation

The Mirror of Justice blog reports here on the intimidation allegations against Professor Safranek.

Fumed by Tommy More at 11:12 PM. |

Highlight this in Yellow, Circle it in Red, Underline it in Black

See this article for the full story.
Cybercast News Service: So, the ABA has essentially given you a fairly clean bill of health?

Dean Dobranski: Yes, there's one item - and when you throw enough mud, something likely will stick. And what stuck was this one thing about faculty leaving. I'm very confident we'll be able to respond to this one concern. We will have no trouble convincing them that we are able to recruit new faculty - that's not a difficulty. But what's very interesting is that there's nothing about governance, shared responsibility, or academic freedom, which were the thrust of the complaints.

Note the present tense in this statement:
Dean Dobranski: Stephen Safranek is a faculty member here, and he was suspended for reasons that I won't go into.[...]

Fumed by Casimir Pulaski at 4:44 PM. |

Dobranski Interview on Cybercast News Service

Check out this exclusive Cybercast News Service interview with Dean Dobranski, entitled "Ave Maria Law School Weathers Critics, Moves Forward, Says Dean."

As Towelie notes in the comments, Dean Dobranski does not mention the role of the founding faculty in his interview. In the interview, Dobranski says "The idea for [the law school] came from Tom Monaghan. . . . first of all, [the law school] was his idea. It was his vision."

Contrast this with Dobranski's statements in his Fall 2004 University of Toledo Law Review (36 U. Tol. L. Rev. 55): "In our first year, among those on the faculty were four of the original five founding faculty who suggested the creation of a new Catholic law school to Mr. Monaghan in 1998." and "Mr. Monaghan's interest in starting a law school at this time had been stimulated by a group of five faculty members from the University of Detroit Law School - Professors Stephen Safranek, Richard Myers, Mollie Murphy, Joseph Falvey and Laura Hirshfeld - who were dissatisfied with the direction of that law school, especially in its commitment to its Catholic identity."

In the 2004 Toledo Law Review article, Dobranski says the phrase "founding faculty" five times. Contrast that with Dobranski's public statements during the past several months that there is no such thing as "founding faculty."

More Dobranski quotes from the Cybercast interview:
It's fairly typical, like many law schools, but what's slightly different is we're an independent law school.
That may be so, Bernie, but everyone still keeps thinking that the law school is part of AMU.
There's also another provision that is significant in the ABA standards. I think it's Standard 207, which specifically says, for independent law schools, the allocation of authority between the dean and the law faculty is a matter for determination of each institution, as long as both the dean and the faculty have a significant role in determining educational policy.
Dobranski forgot to mention the line immediately above Standard 207 which states, "Except in circumstances demonstrating good cause, a dean should not be appointed or reappointed to a new term over the stated objection of a substantial majority of the faculty."
And when we're talking about "the faculty," we're not talking about everyone here, by any means - in fact, at this time it is nowhere near a majority.
Remember last year when a substantial majority of the faculty voted no confidence, how much Dobranski quibbled over how the number was calculated? However you looked at the numbers then, it was still a majority, though Dobranski didn't want to admit it. Now that the numbers appear to be in Dobranski's favor, he's going to shout it from the rooftops. It's important to see that if now "it is nowhere near a majority," that is not because professors who used to be in the majority have changed their position; it is because these professors have been fired or left the school.
There are 15 people on the board, and I'm on the board.
Whoa, there. I only count 13 people on the Board of Governors.
The National Law Journal also reported that at least 15 students from Ave Maria were leaving the school.
The number of students who transferred over the summer is confirmed to be at least 32 students.

The ABA's decision letter includes no conclusion that the school's governance fails to comply with standards or that the law school infringed the academic freedom of any faculty member or any other conclusions with regard to any of the other charges made by the complaining faculty.

Cybercast News Service: So, the ABA has essentially given you a fairly clean bill of health?

Cybercast's question is ridiculous. It is implicitly stating that, even though the school is under ABA investigation, because academic freedom wasn't mentioned in this letter, the ABA has essentially ruled that the school is in full compliance with ABA standards. That makes no sense.
And the critics believe that they run the law school and that the board does not. The most obvious instance of this is when certain critics claim that thedecision to relocate could not be made without them making it. They wanted to sit at the table and be the decisive factor.
I've never heard the faculty say that they should have the authority to make the decision to relocate not the Board of Governors, yet Dobranski says this 3 or 4 times in the interview. All that they have done is request the Board demonstrate that it has acted in accordance with its fiduciary duty to the law school. There are lots of things that makes one doubt that the Board has done so, with the most obvious one being Monaghan's participation on the Board even though he creates an enormous conflict of interest.

And if you had any doubt that the Cybercast interview was not a piece of authentic investigative journalism but propaganda instead, all doubt can be removed with this beauty of a final question:
Cybercast News Service: In other businesses, sometimes the headquarters relocate or various divisions relocate and people pick up and go because that's their job and that's what they have to do - it's the real world. Why should that reality be any different for people who work at a law school that is relocating?
Thank you, Cybercast, for enlightening us dullards.

Fumed by Thales at 4:31 PM. |

Outraged by Safranek Being Terminated Over Baseless Intimidation Charges?

Commenters are clamoring for a new thread on the new revelation that Dobranski is basing Safranek's termination proceedings in part on baseless "intimidation" charges, so here it is. Comment away.

AveWatch has its take on the issue here. Also, WhoseAMSOL gives some very good analysis here, by taking a close look at the allegations and the relevant provisions of the faculty handbook.

This whole thing makes me sick to my stomach thinking about it. It is unbelievable to me that Dobranski could act so outrageously. If you feel the same way, here are two things you can do:
1. Sign the petition requesting the reinstatement of Safranek, Lyons, and Pucillo. More and more people are signing every day.
2. Contact the Board of Governors members expressing your concerns. Safranek's termination proceedings are not over and it is the Board of Governors members who will be making the final determination of his employment status. (I don't have email addresses for everyone. If no email address, I tried to find a phone number.)

Mr. Peter Carfagna: pcarfagna-at-calfee.com
His Eminence Edward Cardinal Egan: c/o peggy.ward-at-archny.org
Mr. Thomas B. Garlick: tgarlick-at-garlaw.com
Mr. William F. Harrington: wfharrington-at-bpslaw.com
Mr. Leonard A. Leo: lleo-at-fed-soc.org
His Eminence Adam Cardinal Maida: c/o infodesk-at-aod.org
Prof. Michael M. Uhlmann: Michael.uhlmann-at-cgu.edu
Ms. Kate O'Beirne: Kate-at-nationalreview.com
Ms. Cathy Cleaver Ruse : (202) 393-2100 (general line of the Family Research Council); in the comments "anonymous" suggests cathyruse-at-gmail.com as an email address.
Hon. Patrick J. Conlin: (734) 475-4349
Maj. Gen. John T. Coyne: jcoyne-at-jocs-law.com

UPDATE: The Coyne and Ruse contact information is updated.

Fumed by Thales at 8:30 AM. |

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Dobranski Uses Baseless "Intimidation" Charges to Support Termination of Professor Safranek

Fumare has learned that one of the reasons for the initiation of termination proceedings against Prof. Safranek, a tenured professor, is "intimidation" of law school staff. Here is the actual complaint of intimidation made by a staff member. This complaint is real and not a joke. Review the complaint yourself and judge whether any reasonable person could view this incident as meriting termination proceedings against a tenured professor. (Click on the complaint for a larger view.)

Here is a 2-page letter from a concerned faculty member to a member of the Board of Governors, discussing the unjust allegations of "intimidation." (Click on the pages for larger views.)

Update: The name of the staff member involved should not be revealed in the comments. Thank you.

Fumed by Tommy More at 10:24 PM. |

Town Hall Check-In Here

As this is posted, there is a town hall meeting occurring in Room 269.

It'd be telling to find out:
  1. Was internet available in 269 during the meeting?
  2. Who came to speak -- did the Dean come in? who else? any board members?
  3. What were the topics discussed.
  4. Was the Virginia Bar's statement that the school must have been accredited at graduation in order to sit for the Virginia bar exam discussed?
  5. Were any counter-terrorism measures taken in order to ensure the safety of the meeting?
  6. Did the Dean affirm or deny Mr. Monaghan's public statement that the teaching authority of the Church should be limited to theology?
  7. What is the final count of students in the 1L class?
  8. Are there any pizzas available or other lunch served?
  9. Was most of the meeting spent introducing the new temporary faculty members?
  10. Was there any discussion about the squashing of the dissident rebellion and the abrupt discharge of those professors?
  11. Was any new dehumanizing language employed during the meeting (such as academic terrorist, dissident, etc)?
  12. Did the Transition Team make an appearance? Did the Transistion Team offer any gifts to students, or other comfortable amenities (such as ear plugs, etc)?
  13. Did any representative of Florida appear? any Florida-based student, teacher, or other minion sent to smile and speak nice about Camp Monaghan?

The alumni (er, "graduates" as the Dean recently called us) would love to hear what happened.

Fumed by Casimir Pulaski at 12:35 PM. |

TELLING: "My goal is to drag as many people to heaven with me as I can."

Regular visitors to Fumare know that the problems at Ave Maria School of Law are systemic and rooted in the Governance of the law school. This problem is not isolated to AMSL, but every "Ave Maria" institution has suffered and is suffering in some way due to this same fundamental problem.

There is an old saying, "A rotting fish begins to stink at the head."

The smelly head we are speaking of is Tom Monaghan's noodle.

Elsewhere on this blog, the case has been made that Tom is a de jure Catholic (he is baptised and goes to mass) but a de facto Calvinist (culturally and in practice he rejects authentic Catholicism). He is an apostate who feels at liberty to reject certain aspects of Catholic Social Teaching and advance a conservative flavor of make-it-up Catholicism that rejects the dignity of persons and replaces the "golden rule" with the "rule of gold" - he who has the gold makes the rules.

There are many examples of this, but perhaps one which hasn't been commented here is Tom's overall objective (that he is very fond of repeating):

"My goal is to drag as many people to heaven with me as I can."

If you are Catholic, this should strike you as very odd - sort of like a the President of the United States letting loose with a great loud fart at a state dinner and then asking for a "high-five." It is a statement that is culturally at odds with Catholicism.

But, it is very revealing of the kind of stink in his head.

It shows that Monaghan holds a kind of pre-destination mentality. He is rather sure of his personal success in getting into heaven, so much so that he thinks he will have strength left over to "drag" others behind him - as if this is how people reach salvation.

Can anyone name one saint who used similar language such as "drag as many people with me as I can?"

"Drag" - To pull along with difficulty or effort; To move or bring by force or with great effort.

If you consider "heaven" in this statement to be Ave Maria Town and University, then this statement makes a great deal of sense. However, if you understand it to be our eternal destination, then the verb is deeply inappropriate.

Christ is our Shepherd, when at mass, the priest or Bishop is the LAST person in the procession to signal this office. Why? Because the culture of Catholicism says that the servant goes last - the shepherd is the last into heaven because he must shepherd the herd all enter the gates before he does. Monaghan's "goal" reverses this ethos and puts himself first and uses an image of force in relation to others to get them into heaven.
This is not the pastoral language of the Faith. It is the language of an arrogant elitist who presumes that he is going to heaven and is condescending to strong arm others into heaven with him.

What a mess.

I guess "academic terrorists" such as Prof. Rice (living spiritual patriarch of Catholic Lawyers) Prof. Myers (editor and contributor to the Encyclopedia of Catholic Social Teaching) and Prof. Frohnen (editor and contributor to the Encyclopedia of American Conservatism) no longer qualify in Tom's mind as people worthy of being "dragged" into heaven by him.

May God help those Monaghan deigns to drag with him to where ever he is headed.

Fumed by Columcille at 8:43 AM. |

Monday, August 27, 2007

NATO Mediator Charges Insult as Plagiarized; Orders Redo

After a brief fact-finding session this afternoon, Colonel Flaherty O'Mally, a impartial mediator assigned to the "Academic terrorism" charges, stated the following findings:

The mediator, sitting as fact-finder, has determined that the term "academic terrorist" is cliche and was stolen from an incident at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, as published in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The plagiarist is known to be an avid reader of that publication.

The article states (source here):
January 16, 2007
Southern Illinois U. Professor Demands Apology for 'Academic Terrorist' Label
The accusations continue to fly at Southern Illinois University.

A linguistics professor on the university's Carbondale campus has alleged that the president of the system, Glenn Poshard, referred to her and others as "academic terrorists" who "lay in the weeds and throw bombs at everybody," according to the Daily Egyptian, the campus's student newspaper. The professor, Joan Friedenberg, is demanding an apology.

This is the latest chapter in a bizarre and long-running controversy concerning allegations of plagiarism, extortion, student-professor sex, and oh so much more.

The insult is null. The hurler is an idiot and ought learn some skill of insult.

The insult hurler's name is not published in this opinion as partial sanction as the hurler only likes to read his name published by others.

The insult must be redone. DO-OVER.



DIMWITNENKO, J, Dissents by separate opinion.

I do not believe the majority opinion has reached the proper conclusion. The epithet used was in the public domain and had no ownership rights. The law has always bent expectations to the capacities of the actor, and in this case, it is obvious that the speaker has limited capacity for originality, having even stolen his ideas for town design from a nun, a sci-fi comic show, and a protestant preacher. He can hardly be expected to come up with a decent insult since such skills require tact, balance, and cleverness. To force a DO-OVER is the equivalent of granting legal cognizance to his effort, which was negligible if present at all. Thus, I would have dismissed with a noisy opinion.

BUSH, J joins this dissent, but also adds that such an insult should have included the word "nucular" and believes such comments detract from the war against real terrorists who destroy regular Joe-American's lives.

Fumed by Casimir Pulaski at 11:15 PM. |

Student Townhall Meeting with Dean Dobranski

Tomorrow, Tuesday at 12:15 p.m., there will be a townhall meeting between Dean Dobranski and returning 2Ls and 3Ls.

Here are some possible things to ask Dean Dobranski about. I'd be interested in hearing more about the reported comment made at the 1L meeting about the Board of Governors possibly going ahead with the move even if that meant a threat to accreditation. Also, it would be nice to hear why Pucillo and Lyons were placed on leave instead of retained as faculty and why Safranek's pay was suspended -- heck, it would be nice to hear why Safranek, Pucillo, and Lyons were fired in the first place. Oh, and I wonder what the Dean thinks of the petition for reinstatement signed by a majority of alumni and by a lot of current 2Ls and 3Ls. And how about more details on the ABA investigation, and how many of the 29 Class of 2009 transferrees over the summer were from the top 20% of the class?

Those who are in attendance, please give us the details of the meeting in the comments later. Or maybe post some live-blogging of the event? Thanks in advance.

UPDATE: Today, at the opening of AMU, Monaghan called those AMC faculty who opposed the move to Florida "academic terrorists." I'd be interested in hearing whether the Dean thinks that characterization fits the current law school faculty.

Fumed by Thales at 8:47 PM. |

Professor Bainbridge on Ave Maria School of Law

The petition in favor of reinstatement of Professors Safranek, Pucillo, and Lyons, which now has support of a majority of Ave Maria School of Law alumni, is getting notice from some prominent blogging members of the legal community. First, well-known blogger Professor Brian Leiter at University of Texas School of Law links to the petition. Second, Professor Stephen Bainbridge (on his own blog and on Mirror of Justice) links to the petition and to the faculty statement condemning the firings. Professor Bainbridge also gives a few thoughts:
I have been reluctant to comment on the Ave Maria situation in the past, because I do not know all the facts. I am still unwilling to take sides. Yet, as a Catholic legal academic, I now believe that the currect situation at Ave Maria is bringing both Catholicism and Catholic legal education into disrepute. To put it in the economic terms I am most comfortable with, what started out as a local dispute is now generating negative externalities affecting all of us with an interest in Catholic legal education. The contesting sides need to join together and prayerfully seek reconciliation.

Fumed by Thales at 7:08 PM. |

Quick Primer for the Incoming Class

Casimir hopes the students will enjoy this brief stroll through recorded history compliments of the blogs and their work in compiling these quotes over the years.

From the Opinion Journal (click for article):
The next phase of Mr. Monaghan's pedagogical crusade began in 2000, when the Ave Maria School of Law opened its doors in Ann Arbor. Big-time conservative Catholics signed up. Clarence Thomas gave a lecture. Robert Bork co-taught a class. Princeton professor Robert George joined the board; so did Henry Hyde and Cardinal O'Connor. Everyone involved, particularly the students and faculty, was vetted with care. They had to buy into the mission: "a legal education in fidelity to the Catholic Faith as expressed through Sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture and the teaching authority of the Church."

Note that last phrase, "teaching authority of the Church."

Mangan, Katherine S. Ave Maria: a 'Seriously Catholic' Law School. Chronicle of Higher Education; 2/18/2000, Vol. 46 Issue 24, pA18.
As the board's chairman, Mr. Monaghan says he has no intention of getting involved in Ave Maria's curriculum. "When I owned the Detroit Tigers, I didn't climb into the dugout and tell Sparky how to set his lineup," he says, referring to the baseball team's legendary manager, Sparky Anderson.
Several law professors who are familiar with Mr. Monaghan find that hard to believe, however, and some predict he'll play an active, behind-the-scenes role.
Mr. Dobranski says everyone who has signed on to Ave Maria is taking a chance because they believe in its mission. Says the dean, "It's really a leap of faith."

I bet Dean Dobranski wishes Mr. Monaghan had kept his world about staying out of the dugout. Well, then again, Mr. Monaghan isn't really in the dugout, he's just moving it across the country.

From the OpinionJournal, above, Monaghan said, in response to whether the Catholic Church has moral authority to teach that workers have a right to unionize, "I think that [the church] hierarchy doesn't know as much about those things as they do about their theology."

But then, you have to love what Mr. Monaghan says about businessman, Del Jones. Billionaire traded materialism for true happiness. USA Today; 09/19/2005
Q: Are successful business leaders who aren't religious less honest, moral or effective?
A: Businessmen get a bum rap. Surveys show that the most religious profession is the military. Businessmen are No.2. You're not going to like this, but people in the media were at the bottom of the list.

So, here he uses a poll the make himself look good, but then watch what happens with this poll (from the same interview):
Q: How do you explain letters 16-to-1 when polls show the country evenly divided about abortion?
A: My theory is you've got 10% of the people who were never going to buy a Domino's pizza even if they were starving to death. There were 10% who would buy my pizza because of my position. The rest couldn't care less, but the controversy was free advertising.

Oh, and all about the necessity to move to Florida, as opposed to being in Michigan. The Detroit News (staff). Across Wayne County. April 14, 2002. Section: Metro Page: 03B.
Hot topics Plymouth Township: Ypsilanti's loss may be Plymouth Township's gain. Township leaders recently met with officials from Ave Maria College in Ypsilanti in hopes of persuading them to relocate to Plymouth. The conservative Catholic college, founded by Domino's Pizza guru Tom Monaghan, wants to move to nearby Ann Arbor Township, but the proposal seems shaky.

The Law School, now at the bottom of the rankings, really is a backwards institution now, as Dean Dobranski explained in Schaefer, Naomi, CAMPUS CRUSADE. American Enterprise; Jul/Aug2001, Vol. 12 Issue 5, p32 et seq.
Dobranski credits part of Ave Maria's success to the generosity of Monaghan and other donors, which enables the school both to be more selective and to provide large scholarships to those students who are admitted. "Most other new law schools start out at the bottom. They desperately need students because that's how you pay the bills, but schools that take anyone get a reputation for mediocrity that never goes away."

So our school started out at the top and has been driven into the ground. Thanks alot.

Welcome to the Super Catholic world, where it seems at times that money dispenses the meaning of words.

Quotes were pulled from articles here, here, and here. Also, this comment thread.

Fumed by Casimir Pulaski at 5:55 PM. |

Welcome on the First Day of the New School Year

Today is the first day of school at Ave Maria School of Law.

To all the incoming 1Ls, the Class of 2010: Welcome! We hope that you all have a good first year as you begin your legal career. Please know that, contrary to certain allegations you may hear, the faculty truly care about your well-being, both personally and professionally. We will keep you and the other students in our prayers during this coming school year.

To everyone else: Please pray for Ave Maria School of Law and for all members of the Ave Maria School of Law community. Whatever happens in the future, let it be God's Will.

Ave Maria, gratia plena,
Dominus tecum.
Benedicta tu in mulieribus
Et benedictus fructus ventris tui Iesus.
Sancta Maria, Mater Dei,
Ora pro nobis peccatoribus,
Nunc et in hora mortis nostrae.

Fumed by Thales at 9:00 AM. |

Canon Lawyers Describe How to Spot Trouble in Upstart Religious Groups

This is a great article of general interest. There is some good wisdom in these guidelines.

See the full article here (thanks to Free Rupublic for having it available online). Somebody sent this link at Catholic Exchange as well here.

Some excerpts include:

1. “Total” obedience to the pope

Many will find this first warning sign surprising. As Catholics, are we not all called to obey the Holy Father? Indeed, we are. When a new association sincerely seeks to obey and follow the teachings of the Holy Father, canonists are for the most part satisfied the group is doing what Catholic groups ought to do.

Nevertheless, some new associations abuse Catholic sensibility in this regard. These groups cite “total obedience to the Holy Father” when what they really mean is partial obedience to selected teachings of the Holy Father, without embracing the entire papal message. Additionally, when challenged over their partial obedience, these groups will appeal to their “total” reliance upon the Holy Father in an attempt to bypass the authority of the diocesan bishop. This brings us to Fr. Morrisey’s second warning sign.

2. No sense of belonging to the local church

As Catholics, we belong to the universal Church. Yet we also belong to the local church community, meaning a local parish and a local diocese. Even the Holy Father is not exempt in this regard; he is, after all, the Bishop of Rome and thus belongs to local Roman Church. Thus the ministry and apostolate of any association should focus on the local church. If a new association or religious order has no sense of belonging to the local church, then this becomes cause for concern.

3. Lack of true cooperation with diocesan authorities

To belong to the local church, one must cooperate with local diocesan authorities. After all, Christ instituted His Church as a hierarchy. Within this hierarchy, our Lord instituted the office of bishop to oversee a portion of Christ’s faithful. Thus the local bishop, and not a particular religious group or association, bears ultimate responsibility for the care of souls within a particular geographical location. If a new association refuses or impedes cooperation between itself and the local diocesan authorities, then its fidelity to the Church is questionable.

4. Making use of lies and falsehoods to obtain approval

As Catholics, we concern ourselves with speaking the truth. After all, our Lord denounces Satan as the “Father of Lies.” So any new association should be truthful in how it presents itself to its members, Church authorities, and the outside world. This is not just a matter of basic honesty; any group or association that resorts to falsehoods to gain approval is likely concealing a deeper problem.

The Church understands that every association, particularly when the association is new, makes mistakes when engaging in ministry or apostolate. When an association is honest, however, these problems are easily identified and quickly corrected. This in turn increases the likelihood of the new association succeeding within the Church.


7. Special status of the founder, or foundress

Of course, the founder or foundress will always enjoy a special role in the founding of a new association or community. Nevertheless, in all other respects he or she should be a member just like everyone else. This means that he or she is similarly bound to the customs, disciplines and constitutions of the community. If the founder or foundress demands special meals, special living quarters, special dispensations from the rules imposed upon other members of the community, or any other special treatment, then this is a clear warning sign. It is of special concern if the founder or foundress claims exemption from the requirements of Christian morality due to his or her status (see point 15 below).


12. Absolute secrecy imposed on members

While some discretion and privacy is necessary within any Church community or association, secrecy should never be absolute unless one is a confessor preserving the seal of confession. Therefore, any association or organization that imposes absolute secrecy upon its members should be approached with the utmost caution. Members should always be free to approach diocesan officials and the Holy See if certain problems arise within the community that are not dealt with in an adequate fashion. Similarly, since these associations exist to serve the Church, all members should be allowed to converse freely and honestly with members of the Church hierarchy when requested.


2. The group is preoccupied with making money

Like the previous criterion, there is nothing wrong per se with raising money for one’s association or apostolate. After all, even Christ and the Apostles used money. Nevertheless, money should be a means of carrying out legitimate ministry and apostolic work. Raising money should never be an end in itself. Additionally, the means employed in raising money should be honest and transparent.

3. Elitism

4. The leadership induces feeling of guilt in members to control them

One’s vocation within the Church should be freely chosen. Similarly, obedience is something a superior should inspire among those under his or her charge. While it sometimes happens that a superior must impose his or her will upon a particular member, obedience should never be coerced through illicit or improper means. Additionally, if a superior must constantly impose his will upon the majority of the membership through coercive means, then this proves problematical to the long-term health of the specific association or religious group.

5. The group completely severs its members from the outside world

Granted, one must be careful here. After all, the Church has a long and honored tradition of cloistered and contemplative orders that sever themselves from the day-to-day activities of the outside world. Nevertheless, even those orders of the most strict observance encourage some forms of outside communication with friends, family and the world. Therefore, it is cause for concern when an association, particularly if the association is lay-based, encourages its members to completely sever ties with friends, family, and the outside world. Additionally, one should beware those associations that encourage or require their members to live and/or socialize only with other members of the same group or association. One should also beware if association or friendships with people outside of the group are encouraged only when they are used to further the goals of the group.

I really enjoyed reading the rest of the article. I am in no way making specific application of the principles in it, but I thought some of the guidance highlighted above was rather telling and quite entertaining.


Here's another little snippet from an article that was applying these ideas to some group or another for which they were concluding that the group was a cult. They said, "Indeed, blind obedience seems to be prized above all else. To question is to be 'negative,' un-Christian. Charity and unity are used as a weapon against anyone who questions behavior or motives." Sounds like the people who complain about FUMARE.

Fumed by Casimir Pulaski at 8:59 AM. |

Sunday, August 26, 2007

From where'd that Chapel idea come?

In Casimir's mailbox today were two pictures and a small explanation that the comic series "Futurama" had already envisioned a crystal chapel much in the shape of what is proposed. Striking resemblance.

Check out the hymn board in this picture:

I really, at first glance of the email, thought I was looking at a rendition of something in Florida.

Check out this piece of work submitted in the comboxes by "HAHAHAHAHAHAHA".

Fumed by Casimir Pulaski at 11:01 AM. |

Friday, August 24, 2007

Dobranski Statement on ABA Inquiry

The following statement regarding the ABA inquiry was sent by Dean Dobranski to all members of the Ave Maria Community today, Friday, August 24, 2007.
To Members of the Ave Maria Community

The American Bar Association has reviewed the numerous allegations against Ave Maria School of Law filed by undisclosed faculty members. Of all of the various allegations regarding school governance, academic freedom, and other issues, the only matter on which the ABA has asked us to report regards faculty hiring and retention. We will, of course, provide the ABA with all of the relevant information necessary to demonstrate compliance with the ABA Standard.

Although the ABA treats this process confidentially - and it is our intention to do the same - a brief update on where the near-completed process currently stands was warranted, given the level of misrepresentation and speculation which has surfaced regarding the ABA's inquiry.

We look forward to completing this process in the months ahead in cooperation with the ABA, and to moving forward with all members of the Ave Maria community -faculty, students, and graduates - in pursuit of our shared mission and vision.
The ABA Standards for Approval of Law Schools state the following:
Standard 405. Professional Environment
(a) A law school shall establish and maintain conditions adequate to attract and retain a competent faculty.

Interpretation 405-3
A law school shall have a comprehensive system for evaluating candidates for promotion and tenure or other forms of security of position, including written criteria and procedures that are made available to the faculty.

Interpretation 405-4
A law school not a part of a university in considering and decidind on appointment, termination, promotion, and tenure of faculty members should have procedures that contain the same principles of fairness and due process that should be employed by a law school that is part of a university. If the dean and faculty have made a recommendation that is unfavorable to a candidate, the candidate should be given an opportunity to appeal to the president, chairman, or governing board.

Rule of Procedure 13 of the Standards is the following:
Rule 13. Action Concerning Apparent Non-Compliance with Standards
(a) If the Committee has reason to believe that a law school does not comply with the Standards, the Committee shall inform the school of its apparent non-compliance and request the school to furnish by a date certain further information about the matter and about action taken to bring the school in compliance with the Standards. The school shall furnish the requested information to the Committee.

Update: Rule 13 goes on to state the following:
(b) If, upon a review of the information furnished by the law school in response to the Committee's request and other relevant information, the Committee determines that the school has not demonstrated compliance with the Standards, the school may be required to appear at a hearing before the Committee to be held at a specified time and place to show cause why the school should not be required to take appropriate remedial action, have sanctions imposed upon it or be placed on probation, or be removed from the list of law schools approved by the Association.

Fumed by Tommy More at 5:23 PM. |

Judge Targeted for Hiring Ave Maria Law Clerks

When reading this story and discovering that a DUI lawyer was behind the offensive attacks against a member of the judiciary for hiring Ave Maria School of Law clerks, one gets the picture of a old school crotchety lawyer who has an axe to grind, but who is really kind of a fringe character.

But this guy doesn't look fringe at all. And that should give all of us pause. With the recent spate of catholic bashing in the media, the rise of anti-Christianity in general and the advent of aggressive atheism, we are quickly moving into a cultural climate where this kind of bigotry is becoming more than acceptable, it is becoming laudable.
Could you imagine if this guy had done the same to a Jewish judge? He would be a social outcast. This action should give us all pause. And for those who practice in Florida, I would consider reporting this guy to the ABA.

Attorney Loring Spolter - Anti-Catholic Bigot

Can you spot what is wrong with this defense of Judge Zloch: "This is a guy who calls balls and strikes as good as anybody. There's no question he's a devoutly religious man, but to suggest that affects his rulings is over the top."

The fact is that Judge Zloch's impartiality and high standards of fairness and respect for the rule of law are not in spite of his religious beliefs but rather because of them.

Do you think that this slick DUI lawyer from Fort Lauderdale FL (of all places) is seeking to protect the integrity of our legal system based on a selflessness? He is looking for some marginal advantage for his case and is willing to destroy this Judge's reputation and career to get it.

I would love to see this quoted in the paper:

A fellow attorney who know attorney Loring Spolter for some years had this to say, "Loring will do anything possible to get an advantage, he has no moral sense or integrity; this is because Loring is NOT a man of any deeply held beliefs, religious or otherwise!"

More coverage:




If any of Judge Zloch's clerks read Fumare, please extend our heart felt thanks to him and let him know that he is in our prayers.

Fumed by Columcille at 12:15 PM. |

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Majority of Alumni Seek Reinstatement of Safranek, Lyons, and Pucillo

A majority of alumni support the Alumni Board petition seeking the reinstatement of Professors Safranek, Lyons, and Pucillo. You can see the petition here. If you are a past or current member of the Ave Maria Law community (faculty, staff, student, or alumnus) and haven't signed the petition, please consider signing it.
From: Matt Bowman <helpavelaw@gmail.com>
Date: Aug 23, 2007
Subject: Petition from AMSL Alumni Board / Majority of Alumni, Seeking Reinstatement of Professors by Aug 27

Dear Members of the Ave Maria School of Law Board of Governors (past and present):

My name is Matt Bowman, AMSL Class of 2003, and I write to inform you that a majority of alumni have signed a petition imploring you to reinstate Professors Stephen Safranek, Philip Pucillo, and Edward Lyons by the beginning of this semester on Monday August 27, 2007. The petition was passed on August 13, 2007 by the Alumni Association Board of Directors, and was publicized independently as well as by Dean Dobranski that week. This situation has been made urgent by the fact that the professors' ejection was only recently revealed. Nevertheless, consistent with the petition, I request that you respond to the petition and to me personally by Monday, August 27, 2007. I also respectfully request that Dean Dobranski and those of you who receive this communication please forward it to new Board of Governors members the Hon. Patrick J. Conlin, Mrs. Cathy Ruse, and Major General John T. Coyne, for whom I do not have email addresses.

The petition signers, including the majority of alumni and others, constitute over 250 members of the Ave Maria School of Law community that signed in just over a week, and more people are adding their names every day. The petition's text and current signatories are attached below; a continually updated list can be viewed at http://helpavelaw.blogspot.com/ , and people can sign by emailing helpavelaw@gmail.com .

Allow me to call your attention to two facts about the petition signers. First, a majority of alumni as listed in the school directory signed this petition despite the difficulty of getting any group that large to simply respond, much less to agree, on any given issue, and amazingly this occurred via email during August vacations and post-bar exam travel. Second, please observe that two dozen or so petition signers are former students, faculty, and staff that have recently departed from our school.

This petition is a project of the Ave Maria School of Law Alumni Association Board of Directors. As part of that project, I, a member of the Alumni Board, administered the website and the signatures. I hereby verify the authenticity of the signatures. Although the words in this cover letter are mine alone and are not the Alumni Board's, the words of the petition belong to the Alumni Board and to the many distinguished persons who signed. For the good of our law school, I implore you to take the alumni majority and the multitude of petition signers seriously, and to reinstate Professors Safranek, Pucillo, and Lyons without delay. I look forward to your prompt response, and I thank you for your consideration.

Yours truly,

Matt Bowman, AMSL Class of 2003, member of the AMSL Alumni Association Board of Directors.

cc: members of the Alumni Association
ABA Consultants Dan Freehling and Hulett Askew

[petition and signatories redacted]

Fumed by Tommy More at 8:08 PM. |

Question for AMU Students About the Ave Maria Gyrenes

The Naples News reports that Ave Maria University's mascot/nickname is "the Gyrenes." A gyrene is a nickname for a member of the United States Marine Corps. The name was selected because Tom Monaghan used to be a Marine himself. I think that it is outrageous that AMU has a mascot that has nothing to do with a distinguishing characteristic of AMU (geography, local fauna, curriculum, Catholic heritage, etc.), and everything to do with Tom Monaghan.

Are there any AMU students who visit Fumare, or does anyone know any AMU students? Can we get a report as to how this name was chosen? Was it by a student vote between several names, or by student suggestions and then the administration made a choice, or by administrative decision alone, or by some other method? What are the students' reactions to the name? Do students like being named after Tom Monaghan or not?

UPDATE: Here is why I think the "AMU Gyrenes" is outrageous. The great majority of secular school team names are named after some aspect of the school or its history or its location. Students identify with their team name, and so the team name should be based in some way on an aspect of the school. Catholic schools have an additional characteristic: their Catholic identity. So, for Catholic schools, I think a team should be based on the school's Catholic identity.

Some secular schools have names that aren't based on an aspect of the school, but are just tough-sounding names (e.g., Trojans, Spartans). You might think that "Gyrenes" fits this category. It doesn't. Why? Because "Gyrenes" was not chosen because it is a tough-sounding name; Tom Monaghan picked the name because Tom Monaghan is a Gyrene. In other words, Monaghan named the team name after himself. I wouldn't have a problem with a school selecting "Gyrenes" if Marines figured a role in the school's history, or even if the school just wanted to select a tough-sounding name. But that is NOT what happened here. I repeat: Monaghan named the team name after himself. That is outrageous.

I think that naming the school team after yourself is right up there with declaring your birthday a school holiday or requiring all first year students to read Pizza Tiger. Fine, you're the founder and chancellor. Make a commemorative plaque for yourself, or name the library after yourself, but don't name the team name after yourself.

Fumed by Thales at 11:01 AM. |

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Ave Maria "Gyrenes" Won't Be Playing Notre Dame

Here's another interesting article in the Naples News, "In the beginning: Ave Maria (football) versus the Irish? Not going to happen." (The Naples News is in the middle of a fancy three-day report on Ave Maria with all kinds of articles and videos.)

Oft-mentioned dreams of an Ave Maria versus Notre Dame football battle will never happen. That's according to Ave Maria University founder and Chancellor Tom Monaghan, who said Division I-A football isn't in the university's plans. "I feel that when we're at our 20-year goal of 5,500 students - 4,000 undergraduate students - that we could be possibly at the very highest in Division I-AA like Georgetown and the Ivy League schools," Monaghan said.

I'm almost positive Monaghan has said in the past that he aims to have a Division-I sports program, including football. Anyone have a record of a past statement to that effect?

The school has selected its nickname: the Gyrenes, a nickname for the Marines - the branch of the military in which Monaghan served.

Yes, that is in the article. I did not just make this up. What happened to a name related to the Catholic heritage, like "Crusaders," or "Saints," or "Friars"? I can't believe it. If naming the school mascot/nickname after yourself is not the biggest example of hubris, I don't know what is.

HT: commenter "towelie"

UPDATE: Commenter Laura has tracked down an earlier Naples News article which talks about the originally planned Division-I football program.
[Monaghan] even wants to compete in athletics someday at the Division I level, especially in football. "My hope is to have that as quick as we can," he said. Realistically, though, Monaghan said it could be 20 years before the first football game is played there. "It may be pretty small" when football does start, he said, "just one side of the stadium, room for 10,000 attendance. We'll look for donors" to expand. John J. Nevins, bishop of the Diocese of Venice, was at Monaghan's side Wednesday. "This could be the Notre Dame of the South. Why not?" Nevins said.

Fumed by Thales at 2:29 PM. |

National Law Journal Article About Ave Maria Controversy

Check out the article in the National Law Journal, "Controversy Escalates Over Mich. Law School's Move." One criticism I have is that the article says that two professors have taken leave of absences. That makes it sound like it was voluntary, instead of what actually happened: two professors being placed involuntarily on leave of absence during their "terminal" year.

Also, the article says "Between 15 and 20 students are leaving the school, according to staff and the dean's office." I don't know if that is accurate based on these reports.

The article also says:
According to Dobranski, a number of factors played into moving the school: Southwest Florida is experiencing a growth in Catholics and an overall economic growth. Also, Naples already has a solid Catholic base, and there's a Catholic school -- Ave Maria University -- in nearby Ave Maria, Fla. The law school has no affiliation with the school, but shares Tom Monaghan, the past owner of Domino's Pizza, as its founder.

In this "list of factors," there is no mention of the projected monetary boon that is supposed to come to the law school because of the real estate venture. I was under the impression that everyone admitted, including the pro-Monaghan crowd, that this monetary factor was primary. Further, the law school is not "near" Ave Maria, Fla., just where there happens to be a university-- isn't the law school ON the university property? And the law school has no affiliation with the university? That's laughable.
Rakes, a partner at Gentry Locke Rakes & Moore in Roanoke, Va., noted that when Ave Maria moves to Florida, the school will have to file a notice with the ABA stating that there has been a substantial change in the school. At that time, the ABA will make sure it is still in compliance with ABA standards.

This is contrary to my understanding of how acquiescence works. I was under the impression that a request for acquiescence comes before the move, not after.
Myers, who teaches civil procedure, constitutional law and antitrust law, said his salary was frozen after last year's vote of no confidence. Also, he was removed as chair of the admissions committee.

I've heard about these allegations informally, but it's interesting to see Prof. Myers make these publicly.

HT: commenter "towelie"

UPDATE: Commenter Laura alerts me that Prof. Myers has already publicly talked about the salary freeze and the committee chair removal in the August 9, 2007 Inside Higher Ed article here.

Fumed by Thales at 2:01 PM. |

Ave Posts Record Numbers, Again

This post comes from reader Eric C. Bales.

Twenty-three members of the Class of 2009 no longer appear in the student directory and presumably are no longer with us. Eight of those are known to be transfers to top schools such as Notre Dame, Michigan and Pepperdine. The cause for the remaining fifteen are not yet known. Given the 125 members on the rolls before the summer, the Class of 2009 looks to post an attrition of 18.4%. An additional three members, who reportedly transferred but still appear in the directory, could bump the attrition as high as 20.8%.

Sadly this is not unprecedented. The rising 3Ls, Class of 2008, began with 147 members. That figure was 119 in May 2007. Over the course of the summer an additional three students transferred, all at a loss of at least one academic semester. A fourth member believed to have transferred still appears on the rolls. If each transferred, the Class of 2008's attrition will stand at 21.7%.

The numbers speak for themselves. Read and weep.

Update: Eric Bales now confirms that the attrition rate is 26 out 125 members for the Class of 2009. That is a rate of 20.8%. Three additional tranfers are unconfirmed which could bring the total to 29 out of 125 (23.2%).

Update #2: It is confirmed that at least 29 out of 125 members for the Class of 2009 have transferred. That is a rate of 23.2%.

Fumed by Tommy More at 9:06 AM. |

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Dobranski admits ABA investigation of governance failures actually exists

A fascinating article appears in the current issue of the Naples Daily News. Read it yourself here. The article concerns the manner in which Ave Maria School of Law is being "moved" to Florida, and the similarities between what is being done to AMSL now and what Monaghan et al did to Ave Maria College a of years ago. Among the many truly remarkable things said in the article is the following passage:

In 2006, faculty members voted 11-3, with two abstaining, in favor of removing Dobranski from the school. The vote was ignored by law school officials and Monaghan, professors said.

Last year, several professors filed a complaint with the ABA, launching an investigation of the school's practices. Professors contend they had no place in the management of the school, which violates ABA standards.

If enough violations are cited, and are not corrected, the possibility of acquiring acquiesce would become even more difficult.

"We wanted to keep things in-house, and not hurt the school," said Phil Pucillo, an associate professor at the law school. "But when no one was listening and nothing was being done, we had to do what was in the best interests of the school and students."

Dobranski said he has yet to receive a report from ABA investigators.

"Until their investigation is concluded, it will be kept as confidential, as (the ABA) has encouraged," he said.

Dobranski said any concerns about the move are premature. The school must focus on gaining acquiesce before packing boxes.

"I would absolutely be opposed to moving if we don't get acquiesce," Dobranski said. "Nobody wants to start over."

Then why, Dean Dobranski, why have you done such a bang-up job of threatening the accreditation of our beloved law school time and time again? Why does your every action seem calculated to bring AMSL to a screeching halt if Monaghan's every whim is not satisfied? Just how much control does that man exert over AMSL? What have we -- and the ABA -- not been told about who actually runs AMSL? Why can't you stand up to the man and say "no, Tom, this is simply not in the best interests of the law school. I can't stand by and let this happen"? Why is it seemingly outside of your abilities to do such a simple thing, perhaps earning back a bit of the respect we once had for you? WHY?

Fumed by Tommy More at 12:04 AM. |

Monday, August 20, 2007

What Is Replaceable: A Dollar Bill or a Professor?

One of the main arguments made by the pro-Monaghan crowd is that AMSOL cannot survive without Tom Monaghan's money. The pro-Monaghan crowd also argues that law professors are easily replaceable.

This is a very curious position to hold. By its very essence, the dollar is the medium of exchange. It has no value in and of itself. One dollar is just as good as another. The greenback folded in my wallet is completely equivalent to the one lying in Mr. Monaghan's vault. Now I know that a law school needs money to operate, but this money does not have to necessarily come from Mr. Monaghan's pocket. Mr. Monaghan's money can be replaced by money from anywhere.

Are law professors as easily interchangeable as legal tender? First of all, there are a lot fewer law professors in the world than dollar bills. And AMSOL can't just hire any law professor. The law professor has to be willing to teach in line with orthodox Catholicism. That might mean that there are maybe a few dozen available law professors. But no two Catholic law professors are exactly alike. They happen to be individuals, with different educational backgrounds, methods of teaching, and personal characteristics. More importantly, each law professor has a unique soul. No matter how hard you look, you just won't find a second Professor Lyons, I guarantee it.

Professor Lyons is not a pizza! Professor Safranek is not a pizza! Professor Pucillo is not a pizza!

Fumed by Thales at 8:40 PM. |

Friday, August 17, 2007

Goodbye, Farewell

Sources at the law school report that there has been a small exodus recently. Staff members Elaina Williams, Kimberly Gauss, and Marilyn Cortellini have left or will be leaving soon. Ladies, thank you for your service to the law school!

Also, Professors Lyons and Pucillo have cleaned out their offices and were evicted from the law school this past week. Thank you for everything, Professors! You and your families remain in our prayers.

Fumed by Thales at 6:57 PM. |

The Wonder Years at AMU

Did you know Winnie Cooper is super smart? She has some math formula named after her. She's writing a math textbook for middle school girls entitled Math Doesn't Suck. Maybe they'll use it at the new school in AMT.

Speaking of which:

Ave Maria Grammar and Preparatory School has posted its tuition schedule under "Admissions: Tuition."

5900 bills. $6400 for non-Catholics. (Can they do that? My guess is "no.") So they'll be serving Naples more than Immokalee, apparently. How will AMU faculty afford this? (Is it per child?)

Maybe wealthier Naples residents will be subsidizing Immokalee residents. I'm sorta okay with that, but the middle class will get squeezed. Always do.

Surprisingly, we don't learn much (or anything) about the governance of AMGPS by clicking on their "Affiliations and Governance" link. I wonder who will run the place? We do learn an interesting bit about AMGPS's accreditation status:

"Ave Maria Grammar and Preparatory School is actively pursuing accreditation through the National Association of Private Catholic and Independent Schools (NAPCIS). The NAPCIS national headquarters will be moving from California to be based out of Ave Maria. Information on NAPCIS is available at www.napcis.org."

Information is also available at avewatch.

So I'm guessing there will be a fully accredited GPS well before we see a fully accredited AMU or AMSoL in AMT. When the ABA moves to AMT, that's when we'll know we've lost.

PS: I went with the cute Winnie picture. There are others. She's all growed up. You're welcome, AMSoL wives and girlfriends. Now, does anyone know how I can preserve all the grown-up Winnie Cooper bikini pictures on my laptop? I wouldn't want to lose them; I may need them to exonerate me someday. What should I NOT do so as not to delete them irrecoverably?

PPS: They really can't charge a different rate for non-Catholics, can they?

Fumed by Boko Fittleworth at 4:20 PM. |

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Statement from Professor Charles E. Rice

Charles E. Rice
August 15, 2007

What Monaghan and Dobranski have done and are doing at Ave Maria School of Law [AMSL] is objectively evil and contrary to Catholic social teaching. No good will come of it. In my opinion, Monaghan and Dobranski, without procedural or substantive justification, have taken the livelihoods of honest and competent professors, with large families, whose commitment to AMSL is, in my opinion, greater than that of either Monaghan or Dobranski. The dismissal of the faculty members is part of a process that can fairly be described, in a non-technical and non-criminal sense, as a hijacking of AMSL by Monaghan and Dobranski. Those who signed on with Dobranski to take the jobs of those unjustly discharged are materially cooperating in evil. Perhaps some were impelled by their own economic circumstances. I offer no personal judgment on any of them or on Monaghan and Dobranski. But I would surely advise any interested parties that it makes sense not to have anything to do with any enterprise in which either Monaghan or Dobranski is even slightly involved. The actions of Monaghan and Dobranski may have made AMSL a terminal case. Its potential has been undermined by the subordination of its interests to other interests and by the subservience of its misnamed Board of Governors to that subordination. The Governors who should have performed their fiduciary duty to AMSL are somewhere in the tall grass to which they lit out when choosing time occurred. I emphasize that I offer no judgment on the motivations or purpose of them or of Monaghan and Dobranski. But it is fair to say that their actions and inactions, in objective terms, are reprehensible, immoral and despicable.

Professor Charles E. Rice is Professor Emeritus of Law at the University of Notre Dame Law School. Professor Rice received a B.A. degree from the College of the Holy Cross, a J.D. from Boston College Law School and a LL.M. and J.S.D. from New York University. He served in the Marine Corps and is a Lt. Col. in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve (Ret.). Considered an expert on the natural law, Professor Rice has authored numerous books and articles, including Fifty Questions on the Natural Law: What it Is and Why We Need It (Ignatius Press 1993) and Where Did I Come From? Where Am I Going? How Do I Get There?: Straight Answers for Young Catholics (St. Augustine's Press 2006) (co-authored with Theresa Farnan). He is also the host of the EWTN television program, The Good Code: God's Natural Law. Professor Rice is the father of ten children and resides with his wife Mary in Mishawaka, Indiana. You can find here the law school administration's tribute to Professor Rice when he was a professor at Ave Maria School of Law before his teaching position was terminated by the administration.

Fumed by Tommy More at 9:49 AM. |

If they do this now in the school, what will they do to the Town People?

The treatment of Safranek, Pucillo, Lyons, Rice, and the others shows that bullying and banishment are the method of persuasion in the new regime. Supporters of the New Dollar Mission frequently cite that they were dissidents (Stalin emerged from such rhetoric).

Between the treatment of the AMC folks, and now the treatment of the law school, a pattern is apparent. Don't forget that AMU has had the same rapid disregard of people not in favor (anyone remember Fessio?) Surely no one thinks it won't be the same in the town.

Nobody seems to be noticing that if they do these things to mere law professors, protected by tenure, and for which there are standards, what do you think they will do to people who live in the promised town?

Do you think everything will be peachy keen in the new town?

What happens if Uncle Tom's minions don't like your music selection?

What happens if you plant flowers in your yard that aren't approved by the mission of the town?

Take the treatment of the professors as a good sign of the modus operandi you can expect when you live in the town.

If they destroy people's careers, they won't care about your mortgage.

Fumed by Casimir Pulaski at 12:15 AM. |

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Dobranski Nervous, Sucks Butt

Ann Arbor (AP)--Where once blogs were negligible, now they are a part of a new strategy for Bernard Dobranski, Dean of the troubled Ave Maria School of Law (AMSL). After a two-year period of thrashing by the "new media" that even noted PR firm Robert Falls & Co. could not overcome, Dobranski has taken his message to a blog!

Various commentators speculate as to the reasons for this major shift in policy of the administration, but AMSL insiders consider the effort spearheaded by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito's former law clerk and Alumni Board Member Matthew Bowman'03 to be having a significant impact on the Dean's new direction. In a resolution passed by the AMSL Alumni Association Board of Directors on Tuesday, a Petition was initiated by the body to call for the immediate reinstatement of Professors Stephen Safranek, Edward Lyons and Phil Pucillo who were eliminated from the faculty a mere several weeks before the start of the fall semester on spurious grounds. The deep rift in the community became even more pronounced, when Dobranski made a call for prayer for the law school--initiated by Professors Richard Myers and Mollie Murphy and echoed by the Alumni Board--a point of contention and division by stating that it was "...further evidence of the breakdown between the Alumni Board and the Law School and a continuation of the adversarial relationship many on the [Alumni] Board have created."

Dr. Ernst von Fulhaber, Professor of Canon Law at the Collegio San Ignazio, was flabbergasted: "Prayer as 'evidence of an adversarial relationship?' Of a 'breakdown between the Alumni Board and the Law School?' This is a very sick man. I pity him. To discourage people from praying for grace and knowledge of God's will, demonstrates that this problem is spiritual and points to a man in deep inner turmoil." Fulhaber continued, "We must be careful not to assume or judge what is going on in Dobranski's soul, but what is clear is that his statement contra orationem defies any sort of Catholic sensibility." Another take on the issue came from an AMSL insider who wishes to remain anonymous: "Dobranski is nervous. He knows that Monaghan has not ruled out the option of ditching the law school altogether. Given Monaghan's track record, it is not unlikely that he would give Bernie is walking papers in rather short order--if anything, because Bernie has embarrassed him beyond repair." When asked about the unwavering support of the Board of Governors, the source commented, "I cannot be sure, but it seems that as long as they feel they are insulated in this whole thing, they don't give a damn. Hence the resignations. C'mon, if term limits are in effect and one's time as a governor is up, why would you bother to send in a resignation?" He continued, "Now Robbie George can go back to Princeton and raise money to throw dinners in honor of himself; Helen Alvare can go back to Catholic University and continue living off the capital she gained as the USCCB's pretty pro-life face; Gerry Bradley can say from his plush position at Notre Dame that he voted against the move, but we will always remember that he was an apologist for the current governance up until the time of his vote."

So what is next for AMSL? Nobody knows. A recent observation seems to sum up well the governance of the school: Every day, before he walks into AMSL's building on Plymouth Road in Ann Arbor, Dean Dobranski can be seen smoking a cigarette outside his vehicle. Not only does he merely smoke the cigarette, but he smokes it to the very last--to the end of the butt. Perhaps, he needs courage; perhaps, he really likes cigarettes. But what is clear is that it is the vision of a shell of a man--one who has labored on the wrong side. It is the vision of a man who has put forth all for an unworthy cause, to the point of discouraging prayer on August 15, the feast of the law school's namesake. Perhaps, he needs a Hail Mary just as much as the law school.

Fumed by Advocatus Militaris at 7:42 PM. |

Dobranski Interview on Above the Law blog

Above the Law, an irreverent "legal tabloid" (of which I happen to be a big fan), has picked up the story about the Ave Maria Law controversy and interviewed Dean Dobranski. Check out Part 1 here, and Part 2 here.

Thanks, David, for giving this some exposure! I hope that you are able to follow up on this story with accounts from the many faculty, students, and alumni who have a different version than that of Dobranski.

Also, just reminder to all members, past and present, of the Ave Maria Law community: Sign the petition please!

Here are some gems from the interview. The quotes are Dobranski's:
We have a group of dissident faculty members. What's lost in this picture is that a lot of people are very supportive -- supportive of the Board's process, the Board's responsibility, and the administration of the law school. That does not mean that they all think [the move] is a good idea. The faculty members who are supportive of the Board and the administration may not necessarily want to go to Florida.

In terms of where we are right now, I think the majority of the faculty are not in the dissident camp. We've hired some new people and they are excited about the move. Sometime last year, there might have been a bare majority of people who were opposed to the move.

"Sometime last year, there might have been a bare majority of people who were opposed to the move?" I'm sorry, but that's a falsehood. It is undisputed that there was a majority of faculty who voted no confidence in Dobranski.

Also, use of the term "dissident": Bad form. It conjures up images of "dissident" priests preaching heresy.
We also have a group of people here who have a very different idea of governance from the Board's views, my views, and the ABA's.

Don't put words in the mouth of the ABA. Let them say what their idea of governance is.
[The Board of Governors'] relationship with much of the faculty is excellent. As to the dissident group, I don't think the Board has a bad relationship. I think it's the dissident group having contempt for the Board's decisionmaking process.

Ah, the same old, tired theme: It's not my fault, there's a breakdown; it's the other's fault. I haven't broken communication with the Alumni Association; the Alumni Association has broken communication with me.
When we made the decision, I announced to everyone that everyone was welcome in Florida. We wanted the same faculty and the same staff. I understand that for personal reasons not everyone will be able to do that, especially staff.... But everyone is welcome.

Except Pucillo and Lyons and others like them?
In terms of rising 2Ls, it is not at all uncommon for people who do extremely well to transfer to another law school. So we lose some people who transfer. Having said that, we will probably lose more people than last year, due to the turbulence. Part of this is because we have faculty members who are essentially running a campaign to encourage people to transfer out. It's despicable.

That last part is wholly incorrect. Ask those students who transferred. Did they transfer because they were encouraged to transfer by faculty members? Or did they transfer because of the instability and chaos created by Dobranski?
But people are free to have whatever views they want on the relocation. Just because the board has made a decision doesn’t mean that people can't have differing views.
No member of the faculty, stuff, or student body has ever been or will be punished for expressing his or her views about the Board's decision to relocate to Florida.

I'm not convinced.

Fumed by Thales at 3:54 PM. |

In E-Mail Reporting Alumni Board Actions, Dean Calls Prayer Evidence of Breakdown

In yesterday's e-mail was one from Dean Dobranski that had two attachments. One attachment was an alumni board resolution, and the other was a call to prayer for today.

The Dean had this to say about the two attachments: "August 14, 2007
"We have decided to distribute the attached resolutions passed by the Alumni Board. We do so, however, for informational purposes only. Unfortunately, they are further evidence of the breakdown between the Alumni Board and the Law School and a continuation of the adversarial relationship many on the Board have created."

Praying is "further evidence of the breakdown???"

It's no wonder nobody can have reasonable discussions. It's also funny to see the Dean employ the royal "we" now in order to impart some notion of multilateralism.

Fumed by Casimir Pulaski at 8:21 AM. |

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Urgent Petition to Reinstate Professors Safranek, Pucillo, and Lyons

The Ave Maria Alumni Association Board of Directors has initiated a petition urging the administration and the Board of Governors to reinstate Professors Stephen Safranek, Philip Pucillo, and Edward Lyons. If you are a concerned alumnus, student, staff member, or other current or former member of the Ave Maria School of Law community, please read and sign the petition if you are so inclined. You can sign by emailing your name and class year or staff position to helpavelaw@gmail.com.

We the undersigned alumni and other members of the Ave Maria School of Law community past and present, hereby strongly oppose the actions of the school's administration and Board of Governors in ejecting Professors Stephen Safranek, Philip Pucillo, and Edward Lyons from our community. The administration and Board have disregarded these professors' academic excellence, Catholic sensibility, ethical integrity, and personal sacrifice. Their ejection, widely recognized as a purge of faculty that disagree with the administration and Board on issues of governance and decision-making processes, is gravely injurious to our school's mission, seriously damaging to its reputation, and inconsistent with the principles of a Catholic academic community. The injury is exacerbated by the direct harm caused to students who are enrolled in these professors' classes and who are entering the grueling federal judicial clerkship application process, a process whose deadlines are imminent and whose miraculous success for our community has been largely due to these professors' tireless and irreplaceable efforts. We therefore implore the administration and Board to fully reinstate these professors before the fall semester begins.


Alumni Association Board of Directors of Ave Maria School of Law and other signatories

NOTE: This post was moved to the top of the page so that as many people as possible would be aware of the petition. Please note, however, the post on the recent Alumni Board request for prayer and Boko's observant post about "service to the law school."

Fumed by Tommy More at 3:26 PM. |

Alumni Board Prayer Request for Ave Maria School of Law

To the members of the Ave Maria School of Law Alumni Association and of the Ave Maria Law school community:

We write to echo the sentiments of Professors Murphy and Myers. As our Alma Mater is currently in a state of great distress, we are in great need of Our Lady's intercession on behalf of the school which bears her name. Regardless of how each of us assesses the events of the past few years, and especially those of the last two weeks, we request that all AMSOL alumni and others in the Law School community join us in a day of prayer for our Alma Mater on the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary this coming Wednesday, August 15, 2007.

In Christ,

Ave Maria School of Law Alumni Association Board of Directors

Fumed by Tommy More at 1:39 PM. |

"Service to the Law School Community"

From Dobranski's letter re tenure:

"To obtain tenure, a faculty member has the burden of establishing [1] demonstrated excellence in teaching, [2] a serious commitment to scholarly research and publication, and [3] a proven record of service to the Law School."

At first glance, it looks like "3" is the wildcard here, the stick Dobranski can wield against those who disagree with him. It all depends on how one defines "service to the Law School."

How does the ABA define "service to a law school"?

Section 404 of the 2006-2007 Standards for Approval of Law Schools is entitled "Responsibilities of Full-Time Faculty". S. 404(a) rattles off Bernie's list: teaching, scholarship, and "service to the law school community". It adds another category: professional activities outside the law school. Then, s. 404(a)(1-5) describes what each of these categories means. 404(a)(1) deals with teaching; 404(a)(2) deals with scholarship; 404(a)(4 & 5) deal with professional activities outside the law school. S. 404(a)(3) deals with service to the law school. What does it say? How does the ABA define "service to the law school"? It's too funny not to quote in full:

"Obligations to the law school and university community, INCLUDING PARTICIPATION IN THE GOVERNANCE OF THE LAW SCHOOL." (Emphasis added, natch.)

So we're all thinking, re Pucillo and Lyons, "Excellence in teaching." Check. "Commitment to scholarly research and publication." Check. "Proven record of service to the law school." Oh, drat, that's where Bernie's gonna screw these fine profs. But, if one defines "service to the law school" as the ABA does, Lyons and Pucillo are being screwed for attempting to do the very thing the ABA demands of all law faculty. And if one doesn't define "service to the law school" the same way the ABA does, well, one has perpetrated a fraud on the ABA and on the entire AMSoL community.

Fumed by Boko Fittleworth at 11:04 AM. |

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Fellowship of Catholic Scholars President An Embarassment to Group

Elsewhere, there was posted a brilliant articulation of Dean Bernard Dobranski's accomplishments at AMSL. Indeed they are many. In light of this catalogue, I am reminded of Ex Corde Ecclesiae (required reading for all who comment here), and a piece that I commented on sometime ago: Fr. Paul Quay, S.J.'s "Toward An Understanding of Academic Freedom" (also required reading). In order to fairly comment and critique the law school's governance, one must have a clear understanding of the (1) what a Catholic school is--specifically the notion of higher education (i.e., college, university, or--in AMSL's case--a post-graduate professional school), (2) what is the relationship between the professor and the administration at such a school--their respective rights and responsibilities, and (3) how does the Catholic Faith inform the teaching and administration of said schools.

The point of this post is not to answer these necessary questions in great detail. Rather, it is to point out that a clear understanding of these initial questions--articulated well by the aforesaid documents--well positions someone to comment on the deplorable situation at AMSL. These are also the same questions that The Fellowship of Catholic Scholars (FCS) was founded to address. In the 1970's, in the wake of Land o' Lakes, Humanae Vitae, and the dissenting positions taken by many of the established organs of Catholic academia in the United States, FCS was founded by a core group of scholars from various universities to:

wholeheartedly support the renewal of the Catholic Church undertaken by Pope John XXIII, shaped by Vatican II, and carried on by subsequent pontiffs. We accept the teachings of the Catholic Church and believe that contemporary questions must be considered with courage and dealt with in honesty. We strive to assist everyone to personal assent to the mystery of Christ as made manifest in the lived faith of the Church.

Since that time, FCS has been a beacon of truly Catholic intellectual accomplishment and pursuit. Sadly, the current President of FCS--in practice--does not uphold the principles of the scholarly group and threatens to further embarrass its respected standing. All those members and associate members of FCS should be appalled at the conduct of the Fellowship's President and should ask for his immediate resignation in light of his "missing the mark" with regard to the maintenance of a truly Catholic institution of higher education.

Consider the following FACTS:

1. No Confidence Vote by the Faculty--a demonstration that the community of scholars considers the institution not to be accomplishing its end.

2. ABA Investigation--initiated by faculty complaint alleging violation of ABA Standards; the result of said investigation possibly may threaten accredidation. Further, under the ABA's Standards an investigation is warranted only when there is some merit to the complaint.

3. Failure to Adequately Fundraise--(acknowledged by his former Director of Development), thus creating a culture of financial dependence upon Mr. Monaghan.

4. 4th Tier Status--Promise made of 1st tier status for the law school (as measured by US News and World Report), but rather two years in a row of 4th tier status. Promise made last year to make efforts to improve status; acknowledgement this year by administration that nothing was done.

5. Deplorable treatment of Founder and Faculty--Discharging respected Notre Dame Law Professor and AMSL Founder Charles Rice from the BoG and as an adjunct faculty member a mere several weeks before teaching his fall classes last year. The latest "Faculty Purge"whose victims include Professors Stephen Safranek, his wife, and his 7 children; Professor Phil Pucillo, his wife, and his 4 children; and Professor Edward Lyons, his wife, and his 5 children.

6. Refusal to meet with the duly elected Alumni Board and answer questions, thus refusing to hear alumni concerns.

7. Recipient of Alumni Board no confidence vote.

9. Reports of a significant number of students transferring from AMSL to other law schools--due to the instability under the Dean's leadership.

10. Soviet-like management and quelling of so-called “dissent"--from the creation of the ex post facto "affirmatively injurious" standard for faculty conduct to the reports of monitoring the communications systems and computer activities of faculty and staff.

11. Candid acknowledgement from—now resigned—members of the Board of Governors that AMSL is a “failed experiment.”

12. Nepotism--The employment of his son, Chris Dobranski, for several years as a Research Fellow, likely drawing a salary and thus likely wasting law school resources with no notable scholarship or teaching to show for it.

13. The Chaplain at the Pulpit--making inappropriate statements and embarrassing indictments during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass to echo the will of Dobranski and Monaghan.

Admittedly, there is more, but these facts highlight how far the President of FCS has strayed in his own institution from an authentically Catholic community of scholars--the type which the FCS stands for and upholds. Basic human dignity has been jetisoned; the impact on young families has been ignored; the impact on alumni and students has been ignored; Mr. Monaghan's dream of a Catholic utopia has figured prominently.

Contact the FCS and demand that Bernard Dobranski resign from his position as President. He brings great shame upon that fine organization and taints it with his incompetence and his ruthlessness.

Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Contact Info:

Msgr. Stuart W. Swetland
Executive Secretary
Phone: look.this.up

Mr. James Shank
Assistant to the Executive Secretary, Webmaster
Phone: 217.255.6625

Fumed by Advocatus Militaris at 9:41 AM. |

Friday, August 10, 2007

AMSOL Trials on Wall Street Journal Law Blog

Check out the article at the WSJ Law Blog, entitled "The Trials of Ave Maria School of Law."

Some excerpts:
In July, the school started termination proceedings against Safranek, claiming some trivial wrongs -- from calling the dean a "liar" to his face -- to more serious ones, such as intimidating the dean's assistant in the parking lot, which Safranek denies.
Dobranski declined to comment on personnel matters, but added that some faculty are now "engaged in activities designed to harm the school" and make the relocation "as difficult as possible." Dobranski says he is confident the ABA will find the school is in compliance with its standards.

That allegation about intimidation sounds bizarre. I'm not buying it. And Dobranski thinks the ABA will find the school in compliance with standards? When you've fired a third of your faculty and another third will probably resign or be terminated? That doesn't seem to me to be a stable legal environment worthy of accreditation.

There are lots of interesting comments at the original article, and it looks like some of our readers are participating. To those of you speaking commen sense, keep up the great work!

Fumed by Thales at 3:52 PM. |

Request for Prayer for Ave Maria School of Law

From: Murphy, Mollie
Sent: Thu 09/08/2007 3:01 PM
To: All Law System Distribution; All Alumni
Subject: Prayer

Dear all:

The Law School is experiencing a deep spiritual crisis. We set out to be an outstanding academic institution -- a "premier" national law school -- and an outstanding Catholic institution. The events of the last month, indeed of the last few days, are clear evidence of how woefully short we have fallen of our objectives. This state of crisis has resulted, in our opinion, from a complete lack of focus on the true mission of the Law School. The Law School is not one man, or two, or even the Board of Governors or faculty, but "a community of faculty, administration, students, alumni, and staff" "based on the inherent dignity of every human being stemming from our creation in the image and likeness of God and raised to a new level by our redemption by Jesus Christ."

The mission of the Law School, too, is not a person. Instead, as set forth in our mission statement, the Law School seeks, through the members of its community, "to offer an outstanding legal education in fidelity to the Catholic Faith, as expressed through Sacred Tradition, and the teaching authority of the Church." Our teaching is "dedicated to forming persons capable of leading flourishing lives through their vocation in the law." In scholarship, faculty members "join in the enterprise of research, discovery, and communicating truth." Each of us hopes to serve "the common good."

We write to remind you of the Law School's mission statement because it is difficult from recent events to see any trace of a law school dedicated to this mission. Thus, we have a request. We request that you, the members of the law school community, consider a day of prayer on the date of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We request that all of us join in asking Our Lady to inspire each of us, but especially our leadership, to recommit to the Law School's mission, as articulated in the Law School's mission statement. Finally, we ask that you keep in your prayers Professors Safranek, Pucillo, and Lyons -- and their families -- whose treatment by this institution cannot be construed as in any way consistent with our true mission.


Mollie A. Murphy

Richard S. Myers

Fumed by Tommy More at 3:42 PM. |