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

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Observations on Monaghan Deposition #3

Here are my observations on Part 3 of the February 19, 2008 Monaghan deposition.

P. 225: Monaghan has been coached with the proper talking points. During questioning about Prof. Rice's concerns about the move to Florida, Monaghan states "A: My motivation was that I thought it was best interests of the law school to move there." I don't understand why Monaghan's conflict of interest is not patently obvious to everyone. Even assuming that the move to Florida is truly in the best interests of AMSL, Monaghan is in no position to make a decision about the move because he has other significant financial and personal interests in Florida. It's ridiculous to think that Monaghan, or Dobranski, or the members of the Board of Governors didn't see this and say "Tom, for at least the appearance of propriety, you are not in a position to decide the law school's future."

P. 225: Monaghan gives the talking points why Collier County is the best place to move a law school:
A: It's the fastest growing part of the fastest growing large state in the union.
Q: Collier County is the fastest growing?
A: Yes.
Q: Is that true today?
A: I don't know about today, but it was at the time.
Great. Development in Florida has changed, but the school is still moving based on outdated economic projections. Remember, there was a time when Detroit was the fastest growing part of the fastest growing large state in the union, but we shouldn't be using those old economic figures.

P. 226: Monaghan then gives another reason for Collier County: "I believe it was the largest community in the country without a law school." I really don't like this reason, because it is so disingenous, a post hoc rationalization. Monaghan doesn't like Collier County because there are no other law schools there; he likes Collier County because his other interests are also in Collier County and he wants all of his interests in one place.

P. 228: Another reason for Collier County from Monaghan: "I think being associated with -- on the campus of Ave Maria University, which I expect to be an outstanding Catholic university, would be a lot of synergy, as well as a major feeder school for the law school of outstanding candidates." Ugh. He used the word "synergy." This most meaningless and banal explanation for the benefits in Florida has been parroted by the administration, and it turns my stomach every time I hear it.

Pp. 228-231: Monaghan admits that he had AMSL over a financial barrel:
A: I think I made the statement that I -- that the way the structure was of the -- and partnership in the Ave Maria town is that the law school could not receive any funding from the joint venture unless it were located in the town.
Q: So, did you -- so, then you did take the position that if the law school would not be moved to Collier County, the foundation would cease further funding?
A: I think I too the position that if it doesn't, I may not be able to afford to continue to fund it.
Q: Couldn't you use partnership assets to fund the law school here just as easily as there?
A: No.
Q: Why not?
A: Because the agreement didn't allow it.
Q: Why not?
A: Because it didn't. Why would they want to get into a partnership with us for something in -- for something in some other part of the country?
Q: Who decided that it wouldn't be supportive if it was here?
A: I think that was something that was a -- one of the demands of our partner.
Q: Who is your partner?
A: That would be Barron Collier Company.
Whoa. This is huge. A completely separate real estate development company is making demands on Monaghan ("We [Baron Collier Co.] will only give you [Monaghan] money if you get the law school to move to Florida."), and Monaghan is turning around and making demands on the Board of Governors ("I [Monaghan] will only give money to you [AMSL] if the law school moves to Florida.") Astonishing.

Pp. 237-238: This has been mentioned in the comments, and it's too funny not to be in a main post:
Q: By the way, who do you think is more knowledgeable on law school administration? Professor Rice or yourself?
A: Bernie Dobranski.
Q: I didn't -- I didn't ask that. I said Professor Rice or yourself?
A: I think I'm more knowledgeable about administration and organization than Charlie Rice.
Q: I said, "law school administration."
A: Well, maybe that would be a toss up. I don't know.
Monaghan wants to have his cake and eat it too: he feigns igorance about the bylaws, structure, actions, procedures of the Board of Governors and continually downplays his role on the Board ("The Board is in charge of the law school, not me; I don't do anything as Chairman, Dobranski runs everything.") -- yet, Monaghan keeps on expressing supreme confidence in his own abilities and in his understanding of how AMSL should be run.

P. 238: The extent of Monaghan's educational background is only "half a year of college."

P. 243: Monaghan admits enrollment is down, now to 127 students.
Q: Am I correct that you lowered your academic standards to get the 127?
A: That would be accurate.
P. 245: Questioning on scholarship levels.
Q: You had to pay more money for scholarships that year, too, didn't you?
A: Which year?
Q: As the years have gone by in order to get students to enter your doors?
A: I'd say paying less scholarships.
Q: I'm sorry?
A: Paying less scholarships.
Q: You're having fewer scholarships?
A: Paying less. The discount --
Q: I don't know what the means.
A: The discount rate was -- has been lowered.
What does Monaghan mean? Are there fewer people on scholarships? Has the total amount of money given for scholarships lower? Have student standards for scholarship eligibility been lowered? Does anyone have any inside knowledge on these questions which you can share with us in the comments?

P. 247: Monaghan gives the figure of "$50, $60 million" as a rough estimate for the limit of money he (or the Ave Maria Foundation) can give to AMSL or AMU.

Pp. 249-250: Funny exchange between Monaghan and Plaintiffs' attorney about the weather in northern and southern climates. The exchange starts off by Monaghan losing his cool and, out of the blue, firing a question at the attorney:
A: Have you looked at the weather outside here and what it's like?
Q: I'm sorry?
A: Do you want to know the weather report for Florida today versus here?
Q: I know the weather report for Florida today versus here. My daughter is down there. So, I've been tracking it. But what that has to do with creating a good law school, I have not a clue.
A: Well, I think that it has a lot to do with it.
Q: I would suggest to you that the south has lacked significantly behind the north from day-one in education at all levels with a couple of exceptions. Very limited exceptions. You'll find, as I think you know, the top notch universities and law schools in the United States are in cold weather climates, Mr. Monaghan.
A: That's because they were opened before the invention of air conditioning.
Pp. 253-254: Discussion concering the Lord survey. Monaghan is read a Charlie Rice memo, quoting Mr. Lord himself who states that the Lord survey does not include an assessment of the viability of AMU as an educational institution in Florida.
Q: Isn't that why you hired an expert to do a feasibility study? Wasn't that the whole point of the Lord study?
A: I assume so.
Q: Okay. So, why would you not ask them to look at the viability of Ave Maria University as an educational institution in Florida?
A: I don't know.
Pp. 261-262: Interesting discussion on funding promises to the ABA. Would the ABA agree with Monaghan's position, I wonder? (At the end of the deposition, Plaintiffs' attorney states that the documents submitted to the ABA haven't been turned over to Plaintiffs yet. I hope that Plaintiffs have gotten those documents by now.)
Q: Did the foundation take a position with the ABA as to its support of Ave Maria School of Law?
A: I don't believe I made any commitments.
Q: Did you take a position with the ABA as to the kind of funding you would be prepared to continue to provide with the ABA?
A: I did not -- I don't believe I made any type of commitment to the ABA regarding funding.
A: I don't remember now, but there was no financial commitment of the nature that has been bandied about since. The ABA may have asked for that, but they didn't get it.
Q: And didn't the ABA rely on the fact that they believed you would provide at least partial funding?
A: They may have certainly hoped I would have provided the adequate funding.
Q: Do you know -- you signed off on the ABA papers. Do you know what they said?
A: I don't believe it said that I would provide any specific amount.
That's it for Monaghan's February 19, 2008 deposition. I suspect we may see more, so stay tuned!