More than 1,200 former criminal justice students at Globe University and Minnesota School of Business are eligible for tuition and education cost refunds, the Minnesota Supreme Court said Wednesday in a ruling that may influence future consumer fraud cases.
The ruling stems from a 2016 Hennepin County court trial that determined those students were deceived into believing they could become police or probation officers through the criminal justice program.
The for-profit schools won a partial victory from the Minnesota Court of Appeals, which ruled that only the 15 students who testified during the Hennepin County trial were eligible to get refunds.
Then-Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson’s office appealed to the state’s highest court, arguing that all the criminal justice students should be eligible.
On Wednesday, justices agreed.
“Equitable restitution, unlike money damages, is intended to force a wrongdoer to divest money improperly gained at the expense of another party,” Justice Paul Thissen wrote for the majority. “It is aimed as much (or more) at preventing the wrongdoer from profiting from its misdeeds as it is to make the injured party whole."
Justice G. Barry Anderson dissented, saying that “even defendants who engage in appalling behavior are entitled to require the Attorney General to prove his claims.”
"There are no findings that show which, how many, or if all program participants viewed the marketing advertisements that the Attorney General offered as evidence or if they did view that advertising, the impact the advertising had on decisions made by the nontestifying students," he wrote.
Brook Anthony, an attorney for Globe University/Minnesota School of Business, said her client was “disappointed” in the decision and agreed with the dissent, “which indicated that it appears the majority has substituted its judgement for evidence, and that should be concerning for litigants all across the state of Minnesota.”
Swanson on Wednesday called the decision “huge for these 1,200 criminal justice students who hopefully finally got their day in court, they finally get justice after a five year fight to get it.”
The ruling may influence consumer fraud cases in the state going forward.
The court “broadly affirmed the Attorney General’s legal authority to pursue restitution and compensation for all Minnesotans” harmed by “a pattern and practice of fraudulent conduct,” Attorney General Ellison said in a statement.
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