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Civil Procedure – Injunction – University Accreditation

Deborah Elkins//March 17, 2010

Civil Procedure – Injunction – University Accreditation

Deborah Elkins//March 17, 2010//

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In this suit arising from defendant Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education’s decision to place plaintiff Hampton University’s School of Pharmacy on probation as to its accreditation, a Newport News U.S. District Court denies Hampton’s request for preliminary injunctive relief; although the balance of harms tips in Hampton’s favor and it has some possibility of success on the merits, the weighty public interests at stake counsel against granting a preliminary injunction.

Although both parties have raised legitimate claims of harm, it is clear to the court that the balance of harms at issue on the instant motion tips in favor of Hampton. The potential irreparable harm to the school if ACPE withdraws its accreditation is obvious and considerable. It is undoubtedly already having an adverse impact on the school’s faculty and current students, not to mention the school’s fall 2009 incoming class or students currently applying to the school.

The court also must consider whether granting an injunction in this case would set a precedent that might lead every pharmacy school or program accredited by ACPE to sue and move for a preliminary injunction if ACPE places it on probation.

Although Hampton’s complaint purports to allege at least four different causes of action, its claims actually appear to fall into two basic categories: claims under common law due process and claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 of deprivation of federally protected rights. For purposes of the instant motion, because the court has concluded that Hampton has raised sufficient questions going to the merits for its common law due process claim, there is no need to consider the viability of the other claims. The court cannot conclude that Hampton has no chance of success on the merits, at least with respect to its “common law due process” claims.

The court believes the public interest is of particular relevance because the institution at issue here is not merely a college or university, but a school that educates licensed medical professionals. Public interest in this case also implicates concerns about public health and public safety. Although Hampton obviously has a strong interest in preserving the school and its community of students and faculty, ACPE has an arguably stronger interest in protecting not only the educational interests and prospective credentials of the school’s current and prospective students, but also in protecting the public from students or graduates whose educational experience did not meet certain minimum criteria being allowed to become candidates for state licensure as pharmacists. Although Hampton appears to have fulfilled the other Blackwelder prerequisites to the availability of injunctive relief, the court finds the strong countervailing public interests at stake in this case oppose granting such relief.

On balance, the court believes the circumstances of this case, as the court currently understands them to be, simply do not merit the injunctive relief Hampton requests.

Motion for preliminary injunction denied.

Hampton University v. Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Educ. (Friedman, J.) No. 4:09cv23, April 17, 2009; USDC at Newport News, Va. VLW 009-3-219, 27 pp.

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