InfiLaw System pulled its application for a license to operate the Charleston School of Law less than 24 hours before it was to be voted on,
The state's Commission on Higher Education was scheduled to vote on the license Thursday morning, which would have brought to a close a months-long contentious debate over what is best for the private, decade-old law school on the Charleston peninsula.
InfiLaw leaders, in a prepared statement, said they had temporarily pulled the application at the request of state Sen. John Courson, chairman of the Senate Education Committee. Courson wanted to give the commission more time to review new information and conflicting recommendations about the license, they stated.
According to InfiLaw's statement, the company still is committed to buying and running the school, and it intends to renew its application in the future. "We want to give the commission additional time to consider and reconcile these issues, including responses to questions we submitted just a few days ago," it stated.
InfiLaw didn't respond to a call seeking more information about their decision, and school and state officials remained tight-lipped Wednesday about the surprise move.
Many students, faculty and members of the state's legal community have been outspoken in their opposition to InfiLaw since Charleston School of Law owners announced last summer that a possible sale was in the works. They contend the standards are lower at InfiLaw's three law schools than at the Charleston school, and that a sale to InfiLaw would diminish the value of a Charleston School of Law degree.
InfiLaw representatives have said the company is the best option to secure the school's future.
John Robinson, president of the law school's alumni board, said InfiLaw likely pulled out because it was afraid its application would be denied. "If InfiLaw thought they were going to win," he said, "surely they would have gone ahead with the vote."
Courson sent a letter to the commission Wednesday, asking that the vote on the InfiLaw license be postponed until members had sufficient time to review new information and an opinion from the Attorney General's Office that said the commission must make its decision on granting the license based only on stated, specific criteria.
Courson did not return a call for further explanation.
Commission staffers previously had recommended that the commission grant InfiLaw the license, but the group's Academic Affairs and Licensing Committee voted against it and recommended to the full commission that it deny the license.
Commission Chairman John Finan said he has no details about why InfiLaw pulled its application. "Maybe they thought because they lost in committee they would lose with the full commission," he said. "I just don't know."
What's important, he said, it that InfiLaw withdrew the application. "It's a moot point," he said.
Ed Westbrook, one of the three owners of the Charleston School of Law, could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Westbrook has said he is opposed to a sale to InfiLaw, and thinks the school should operate as a nonprofit organization in the future.
Charleston School of Law spokesman Andy Brack said the two other owners, George Kosko and Robert Carr, would not grant interviews Wednesday.
Reach Diane Knich at 843-937-5491 or on Twitter at @dianeknich.