Educational institutions are now experiencing unprecedented disruption to their operations, budgets, technology, and processes as a result of the worldwide pandemic. These institutions must also contend with an ever-evolving set of regulatory challenges, which run the gamut from negotiating start dates and admissions with governing bodies to NCAA regulations regarding student-athletes to the commercialization of intellectual property assets developed under the institution’s auspices.
Lewis Roca has the extensive regulatory knowledge and industry experience to resolve virtually every kind of legal issue for clients in this sector, which include universities, private secondary schools, charters, for-profit schools, museums, and foundations. Whether offering counsel on dispute avoidance, navigating the special procedures required by government and private funding sources, or protecting intellectual property, we provide the sound judgment and the solutions our clients need to further their missions.
Our seasoned team has been recognized by Chambers USA, Benchmark Litigation, and Martindale-Hubbell, among others, for our track record of success in the education space. We are well-positioned to handle the multifaceted challenges our clients face with a deep bench of lawyers culled from our business, intellectual property, litigation, and labor and employment practices.
Lewis Roca helps clients protect their employees, students, and other key stakeholders while continuing to provide an education that aligns with local and federal regulations. We have the foresight and strategic perspective to mitigate risk and anticipate problems before they arise, allowing our clients to focus on their most important objective: delivering a quality education. Our services include:
- Business torts and partnership disputes
- Corporate governance
- Crisis management
- Dispute avoidance and resolution, including litigation and arbitration
- Intellectual property protection
- Labor and employment
- Real estate
- Regulatory compliance
- Customized training programs, including sexual harassment
- Community College District. Representing the largest community college district in the United States in a case involving a novel theory of sex discrimination that had not been tested in many federal courts. The United States Supreme Court was set to decide on the limits of sex discrimination claims under Title VII while this case was pending. After being retained to conduct sexual harassment training for all of its executive, managerial, and supervisory employees, we were again retained by our client to defend a lawsuit filed by a former employee in United States District Court. The employee claimed that the former vice president of academic and student affairs of a community college in the district discriminated against her by refusing to hire her as the director of the college’s Center for Teaching and Learning. The plaintiff alleged that, while she was qualified for the position, the vice president – a lesbian woman who does not conform to gender stereotypes and is married to a woman – did not hire her because she is heterosexual, married, and conforms to typical female gender stereotypes (including dressing femininely, acting femininely, and wearing makeup). The plaintiff further alleged that the vice president ultimately selected a less qualified candidate for the position because the candidate is also a lesbian woman who does not conform to typical gender stereotypes. The lawsuit included claims of sex discrimination in violation of Title VII, sex discrimination in violation of 42 U.S.C. 1983 (because the community college district is a government entity), and constructive discharge. Four months after our client filed an answer the case was very favorably settled.
- State University. Represented a state university in connection with two separate public-private partnership developments regarding the ground lease and development of (1) a $120 million mixed-use facility – containing student housing, academic space, and dining space – to be constructed in downtown Phoenix and (2) a $30 million student housing facility to be constructed on our client’s campus. Both projects involved a ground lease, which structured the development parameters, to an entity that would be responsible for construction; the first project also contained a bond component.
- State University. Assisted a state university with a $110 million dispute with the United States Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) and the local water and electric power utility, the Salt River Project (SRP). The dispute concerned the ownership of certain land adjacent to our client’s main campus that involved a portion of BOR’s regional canal system. After acquiring a parcel over which a portion of the BOR canal has run for over 100 years, our client was in the process of initiating the construction of a new interdisciplinary science and technology building, which was designed to cantilever over the canal with a few support structures that would be located in or adjacent to the canal. BOR and SRP objected, resulting in construction contract delays amounting to tens of thousands of dollars per day. We helped negotiate and draft a series of temporary construction easements and long-term license agreements with SRP to permit our client to construct the building.
- University Governing Board. Representing a university’s governing board in several putative class actions seeking recovery of tuition, room and board, and fees from three state universities – all governed by the the Arizona Board of Regents, which is the named defendant – following the universities’ transition to remote learning in March 2020 due to COVID-19. In the various actions, plaintiffs seek to certify a class of parents/students who paid for tuition, housing, food, and fees for the spring 2020 semester at the three Arizona public universities. The class seeks refunds of tuition, room, board, and fees for a pro-rated period for the spring semester. In the first filed action, the United States District Court for the District of Arizona granted our motion to dismiss the action.
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