Embattled Florida law school faces another professor pay suit

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REUTERS/Mike Blake

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  • It's the third such suit filed against Florida Coastal School of Law since 2018
  • School is poised to close after losing federal student loan eligibility

(Reuters) - A law professor at beleaguered Florida Coastal School of Law has sued the school accusing it of never making good on the salary increase she was promised when she was appointed associate dean for academic affairs in 2017.

Stacy Scaldo’s complaint, filed late last week in Florida state court, marks at least the third time Florida Coastal has been hit with a lawsuit by a faculty member since 2018. It comes as the Jacksonville for-profit law school is fighting for survival after being cut off from the federal student loan program in April due, in part, to a lack of financial resources.

Florida Coastal is currently operating under an American Bar Association-approved closure plan that allows remaining students to complete their studies at other law schools but receive a J.D. from Florida Coastal. The school is not currently holding classes or enrolling new students.

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The school is suing the U.S. Department of Education for reinstatement to the federal loan program. Earlier this month, a federal judge in Florida denied its bid for a temporary injunction that would restore its eligibility.

Scaldo, who has taught at Florida Coastal since 2004, alleges that former dean Scott DeVito promised her an annual salary of $130,000, but that the school never paid her that amount. She was continually assured that the school would make up for the shortfall with interest, which never came to pass, according to the complaint, filed Aug. 26 in Florida’s Circuit Court of the 4th Judicial Circuit.

“Plaintiff has worked tirelessly for the Defendants, but after years of her loyal service, Defendants breached the terms of her contract,” reads the complaint. “Defendants never paid Plaintiff’s full salary as agreed upon.”

The complaint does not disclose how much Scaldo was actually paid, and her attorney, Thomas Dickens of the firm Morgan and Morgan, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Tuesday. Scaldo is seeking upwards of $30,000, according to the complaint.

Florida Coastal President Peter Goplerud declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Florida Coastal is also facing lawsuits from former associate dean of faculty development Benjamin Priester and former president Dennis Stone, both of whom allege they were denied promised pay. Additionally, Stone claims that he was improperly terminated in 2018. Both cases are ongoing.

Florida Coastal is the last of the three for-profit law schools operated by Naples, Fla.-based InfiLaw Corp, which until recently was owned by private equity firm Sterling Capital Partners. InfiLaw, which is named as a defendant in Scaldo’s suit, also operated the Charlotte School of Law, which shuttered in 2017, and Arizona Summit Law School, which closed the following year.

Charlotte School of Law was also terminated from the federal student loan program, while Arizona Summit lost its ABA accreditation. All three InfiLaw schools were in the bottom tier of the U.S. News & World Report law school rankings.

The case is Scaldo v. Florida Coastal School Of Law Inc, Florida Circuit Court, Duval County, No. 133517465

For Stacy Scaldo: Thomas Dickens of Morgan and Morgan

For Florida Coastal School of Law: Not available

Read more:

Judge won't throw lifeline to teetering Florida law school

Shuttered law school sues ABA over accreditation decision

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Karen Sloan reports on law firms, law schools, and the business of law. Reach her at karen.sloan@thomsonreuters.com