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Texas Law School Wants Class Action Tossed

FORT WORTH (CN) - Texas Wesleyan University says it need not grant its law school graduates alumni status with Texas A&M University, which bought Wesleyan's law school, and seeks dismissal of a federal class action against both colleges.

More than 30 graduates of then-private Texas Wesleyan University School of Law sued both schools in August.

Texas A&M, in College Station, agreed to buy Texas Wesleyan's downtown Fort Worth law school in June 2012, converting it into the first public law school in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Since the purchase closed in 2013, the law school's new graduates have been accepted as Texas A&M alumni, have the updated Texas A&M school name on their diplomas and are eligible to receive Aggie rings.

The plaintiffs claim Texas A&M's refusal to reissue pre-acquisition graduates law diplomas with the updated school name "has damaged the disavowed graduates, who have lost the ability to easily show that their juris doctor degrees are valid to potential employers and clients, as their law school is no longer easily located on many lists of accredited law schools."

Texas A&M and Texas Wesleyan filed separate motions to dismiss Monday. Texas Wesleyan said that any contractual obligation it owed to the plaintiffs "ended with their graduation."

"In the absence of a contract containing a specific promise, there is no independent duty of good faith and fair dealing," Texas Wesleyan said in its 4-page motion. "The university/alumni relationship is not a 'special' one that would give rise to a cause of action for breach of the implied contractual duty of good faith and fair dealing."

Texas Wesleyan also denied liability for the alleged "negligent negotiation of asset purchase agreement."

In its motion to dismiss, Texas A&M said the plaintiffs' trademark, equal protection and state law contract and tort claims are barred by sovereign immunity.

Plaintiffs' attorney Warren V. Norred, a Texas Wesleyan School of Law graduate, compared his clients' case to a marriage, and said they simply want the schools to follow through on the paper work.

"When my wife changed her name, she did not become a new person and have a new birthday, though she did have to obtain a new drivers' license and update other documents," Norred said in August 2014. "This is no different. The school has changed its name, but it is the same school. It has not changed its accreditation date. TAMU has changed many of the documents, and needs to complete the job."

Texas A&M Provost Karan Watson said the university has welcomed Texas Wesleyan alumni "into the Aggie family."

"But there are limits on our ability to accommodate some of their requests," she said in October. "We have strived to ensure the continuity of networking, professional development, mentoring and leadership opportunities at the law school. We regret that a small group of alumni have decided to file suit, but we know that we have been fair in our dealings with the Texas Wesleyan law school alumni."

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