Law Deans in Jail

Article excerpt

D. False Statements

Like mail and wire fraud, this crime is triggered by lies, but the victims of this crime are not students, they are agencies of the federal government. The statute, 18 U.S.C. section 1001, commands that

   Whoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive,
   legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United
   States, knowingly and willfully ... (1) falsifies, conceals, or
   covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact', (2)
   makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or
   representation; or (3) makes or uses any false writing or document
   knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious or
   fraudulent statement or entry, (307)

commits a felony.

The crime of false statements is committed when a person or entity submits a false statement to any branch or agency of the federal government (Agency). (308) In recent years law schools have submitted some of the same information not only to U.S. News, but also to the Section on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar of the ABA, the only organization authorized to accredit law schools for the U.S. Department of Education (DOE). (309) In these overlapping categories, if a school submitted false information to U.S. News, then it also submitted a "false writing or document" to the accrediting agency.

The ABA serves as the DOE's official accrediting agency for law schools in the United States. As may be expected of a lawyers' organization, the ABA emphasizes the federal regulatory sources of its authority to establish standards with which law schools must comply to be accredited in the eyes of the DOE.

   Under Title 34, Chapter VI, [section] 602 of the Code of Federal
   Regulations, the Council and the Accreditation Committee of the ABA
   Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar are recognized
   by the United States Department of Education (DOE) as the
   accrediting agency for programs that lead to the J.D. degree. In
   this function, the Council and the Section are separate and
   independent from the ABA, as required by DOE regulations.

   The Council of the Section promulgates the Standards and Rules of
   Procedure for Approval of Law Schools with which law schools must
   comply in order to be ABA-approved. The Standards establish
   requirements for providing a sound program of legal education. The
   law school approval process established by the Council is designed
   to provide a careful and comprehensive evaluation of a law school
   and its compliance with the Standards. (310)

The DOE confirms that the ABA, like the accrediting agencies for other types of educational institutions, performs functions integral to the DOE's mission.

   The U.S. Department of Education does not accredit educational
   institutions and/or programs. However, the Secretary of Education
   is required by law to publish a list of nationally recognized
   accrediting agencies that the Secretary determines to be reliable
   authorities as to the quality of education or training provided by
   the institutions of higher education and the higher education
   programs they accredit. (311)

A false statement submitted directly to the DOE concerning any of these issues would trigger federal jurisdiction under section 1001 because the DOE "has the power to exercise authority in [the] particular situation" in which the false statement arose. (312) But the falsehoods at issue here were not submitted directly to the DOE. Instead they were submitted to a private organization, the ABA. That anomaly will not defeat federal jurisdiction. Federal jurisdiction can exist even if the defendant did not make the false statement directly to the relevant federal agency. (313) Jurisdiction can exist even if the defendant submitted the information to a private entity (314) or a state government agency. (315)

The relationship between the ABA and the DOE seems consistent with the cases finding jurisdiction in these circumstances. …