Ave Maria School of Law

Coordinates: 26°14′32″N 81°43′53″W / 26.242147°N 81.731321°W / 26.242147; -81.731321
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Ave Maria School of Law
MottoFides et Ratio
Faith and Reason
School typePrivate law school
Endowment$1.45 million (2020)[1]
DeanJohn M. Czarnetzky
LocationVineyards, Florida
26°14′32″N 81°43′53″W / 26.242147°N 81.731321°W / 26.242147; -81.731321
Enrollment299 (2021)
Faculty22 full time
USNWR ranking(unranked)[2]
Bar pass rate62.96% (2021) [3]

Ave Maria School of Law is a private Roman Catholic law school in Vineyards, Florida. It was founded in 1999 and is accredited by the American Bar Association. The school is perennially ranked as the "most conservative" and "most devout" law school in the United States.[4]

History and governance[edit]

Ave Maria School of Law was founded in 1999, accepting its first class in 2000 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The law school's beginnings lie in discussions between Tom Monaghan and disgruntled current and former faculty members of the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, including future founding dean Bernard Dobranski, former dean at Detroit Mercy Law School and then dean of Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law, who complained that there were no "true Catholic" law schools. Monaghan supported the school through his Ave Maria Foundation and has served as the chairman of the board of governors of the school.

The founding board of governors included right-wing and pro-life religious and political figures including Henry Hyde, Edward Cardinal Egan, Robert P. George, Kate O'Beirne, Adam Cardinal Maida, Bowie Kuhn, Frank Joseph Dewane, and John Cardinal O'Connor. Robert Bork was an early faculty member and Antonin Scalia and Charles E. Rice consulted on the structure of the curriculum.[5] Faculty and administrators are required to make a profession of faith, and vow to follow Catholic teachings, the Magisterium and the Holy See. [6] The school was described by the National Catholic Reporter as having "a more conservative religious orientation than any existing Catholic law school in the nation" and "militantly religious". [7]

In 2002, Monaghan proposed to develop a university campus at the Domino's Farms office park outside Ann Arbor, to combine Ave Maria College and Ave Maria law school into Ave Maria University, including a 250-foot tall crucifix as a campus monument, but his plans were rejected by the Ann Arbor Township planning commission. After this rejection, and over extensive opposition from the school's administration, faculty and students, Monaghan proposed to move the school from Ann Arbor to Florida. Following a purge by Monaghan of opposing administration and faculty members,[8][9] the school moved from Ann Arbor to Florida in 2009.[10] The initial plan was to co-locate the law school and university in Monaghan's proposed planned community Ave Maria, Florida, but after several years in leased temporary quarters in a former retirement home in Vineyards, in suburban Naples, Florida, the plan to co-locate in the city of Ave Maria was abandoned in 2015 and the law school purchased the facilities it had been leasing. [11]

John Czarnetzky was named dean of the law school in May 2021.[12]

Academics and curriculum[edit]

The school's curriculum combines a traditional legal education with an emphasis on how the law intersects with the Catholic intellectual tradition and natural law philosophy. All students are required to take courses in the moral foundations of the law, jurisprudence, and law, ethics and public policy. Faculty are to address moral issues in all courses, and to explore them through Catholic or other religious teachings.[13]

As of 2021, the school had 22 full-time and 14 part-time faculty.[14]

Accreditation, admissions, bar exam passage, and employment[edit]

The law school was accredited by the ABA in 2005.[15]

In 2016, the school was sanctioned by the American Bar Association due to lax admissions standards.[16][17] In February 2018, the ABA announced the lifting of the sanctions following remedial actions by the school.[18]

In 2021, the law school had an acceptance rate of 48.8% and an enrollment rate of 32.6% of admission offers. The 50th percentile LSAT score was 151 and the 50th percentile GPA was 3.17.[14]

In 2021, the law school had a first-time bar passage rate of 62.96%, with 69.05% passing in Florida, and 41.67% passing in other jurisdictions.[3]

For 2021 graduates, 43 of 68 (64.24%) had full-time employment in positions requiring bar passage, seven full-time in J.D. advantage positions, two in full-time professional positions, and one in a long-term part-time professional position.[19]

In 2022, the ABA's Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar determined Ave Maria had failed to significantly comply with Standard 316, which was revised in 2019 to provide that at least 75% of an accredited law school's graduates who took a bar exam must pass one within two years of graduation.[20] Graduates in 2019 had a 67.21% bar pass rate.[20] However, Ave Maria had an 83.58% pass rate in 2018 and claimed a 2020 rate of 89.7%, and so the school expected the matter to be resolved with the council at its February, 2023 meeting.[20] The ABA determined the school was back in compliance by March of 2023.[21]


The school is a converted former retirement community in Vineyards that it initially leased, and later purchased, from Ave Maria University. [11] The campus consists of academic facilities in five buildings, and residence facilities in apartments and sixteen villa housing units. [22] The law library was converted from the community center, with a large reading room developed from the central auditorium and with activity areas repurposed to hold the collections. [23]


The Ave Maria Law Review is currently published by students at Ave Maria School of Law.[24] The school's moot court program publishes a magazine called The Gavel.[25] The Law School External Affairs Office also publishes The Ave Maria School of Law Advocate, a yearly publication for alumni.[26] From 2009-2018, the School published The Ave Maria International Law Journal. [27]


U.S. News & World Report ranks Ave Maria in the fourth tier of U.S law schools.[28] Ave Maria touts its perennial rankings as the "most conservative" and "most devout" law school in the US by surveys such as The Princeton Review and PreLaw Magazine.[4]

The school was one of 114 private colleges nationwide to fail a federal financial responsibility test in 2007, 2008, and 2009.[29][30] The school said its low asset-to-debt ratio was "typical of recently founded institutions" and "represents no change in our fiscal health and should not be cause for concern".[31] In 2010, Ave Maria's Dean Milhizer stated that the school's finances were very strong and its fundraising results were improving.[32]


  1. ^ "Ave Maria School of Law". datausa.io. Retrieved June 23, 2022.
  2. ^ "Ave Maria School of Law". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved 22 June 2022.
  3. ^ a b "ABA Required Disclosures - Bar Passage Outcomes". abarequireddisclosures.org. Retrieved June 16, 2022.
  4. ^ a b Hollis-Brusky, Amanda; Wilson, Joshua (2020). Separate but Faithful; The Christian Right's Radical Struggle to Transform Law and Legal Culture. Oxford University Press. p. 215. ISBN 978-0190637279.
  5. ^ Hollis-Brusky & Wilson 2020, p. 56.
  6. ^ Hollis-Brusky & Wilson 2020, p. 83.
  7. ^ Hollis-Brusky & Wilson 2020, p. 3.
  8. ^ Leonard, James (2012). Living the Faith; A Life of Tom Monaghan. University of Michigan Press. pp. 238ff. ISBN 9780472117437.
  9. ^ Blake, Maria (August 20, 2009). "Pie in the Sky". Washington Monthly. Retrieved June 20, 2022.
  10. ^ Osborne, John (February 17, 2009). "Ave Maria Law School gets ABA approval to move to Naples on July 1". Naples Daily News. Retrieved June 16, 2022.
  11. ^ a b "Ave Maria Law School to Purchase Vineyards Campus as Permanent Home". Ave Maria Herald. April 14, 2015. Retrieved June 20, 2022.
  12. ^ "Ave Maria School of Law Names Czarnetzky Dean". The Florida Bar News. Florida Bar Association. May 5, 2021. Retrieved June 16, 2022.
  13. ^ Taylor, Clifford; Hershock, Martin; Finkelman, Paul (2006). The History of Michigan Law. Ohio University Press. p. 270. ISBN 9780821416617.
  14. ^ a b "509 Required Disclosure". abarequireddisclosures.org. Retrieved June 16, 2022.
  15. ^ Lederman, Doug (July 8, 2005). "Ave Maria Gets High Sign From ABA". Inside Higher ED. Retrieved June 21, 2022.
  16. ^ Rasmussen, Kristen (November 21, 2017). "10 Law Schools Sanctioned by ABA for Lax Admissions". Law.com. Retrieved November 29, 2017.
  17. ^ "Ave Maria School of Law Public Notice of Specific Remedial Action" (PDF). American Bar Association. August 2016. Retrieved November 29, 2017.
  18. ^ Journal, A. B. A. "ABA removes remedial actions requirements for Ave Maria School of Law". ABA Journal. Retrieved 2019-12-04.
  19. ^ "ABA Employment Outcomes". abarequireddisclosures.org. Retrieved June 21, 2022.
  20. ^ a b c "3 law schools dinged for low bar pass rates". Stephanie Francis Ward, ABA Journal, December 14, 2022. Retrieved December 16, 2022.
  21. ^ "3 law schools dinged on bar pass rates see improvement; another back in compliance with diversity standard". Stephanie Francis Ward, ABA Journal, March 6, 2023. Retrieved March 14, 2023.
  22. ^ "Facilities". avemarialaw.edu. Archived from the original on August 4, 2017. Retrieved June 21, 2022.
  23. ^ "How Do You Library?" (PDF). AALL Spectrum. American Association of Law Libraries. 18 (7): 9. May 2014. Retrieved June 21, 2022.
  24. ^ "Law Review". Archived from the original on Jun 12, 2010. Retrieved Apr 20, 2020.
  25. ^ "Ave Maria Law | Moot Court Board". avemarialaw-moot-court.avemarialaw.edu. Archived from the original on December 27, 2019. Retrieved Apr 20, 2020.
  26. ^ "Advocate; Ave Maria School of Law Magazine". avemarialaw.edu. Archived from the original on June 16, 2022. Retrieved June 21, 2022.
  27. ^ "Ave Maria International Law Journal-Issues". avemarialaw.edu. Archived from the original on September 22, 2021. Retrieved June 20, 2022.
  28. ^ "U.S. News & World Report Rankings". Retrieved Apr 20, 2020.
  29. ^ Sloan, Karen (August 13, 2010). "Government says law school's financing lags". The National Law Journal. Retrieved 2010-08-14.
  30. ^ Blumenstyk, Goldie; Richards, Alex (August 11, 2010). "149 Nonprofit Colleges Fail Education Department's Test of Financial Strength". The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved 2010-08-14.
  31. ^ Dillon, Liam (June 10, 2009). "Report: Ave Maria Law School Fails Federal Financial Test". Naples Daily News. Archived from the original on 2013-02-05. Retrieved 2020-04-20.
  32. ^ "Ave Maria Law School's Bar Passage Rate Lags Most Florida Schools". Ave Herald. Archived from the original on 2011-10-15. Retrieved 2011-10-30.

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