Trinity Law School

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Coordinates: 33°45′56″N 117°51′07″W / 33.76556°N 117.85194°W / 33.76556; -117.85194

Trinity Law School
TLS Logo.png
Parent schoolTrinity International University
School typePrivate
(Evangelical Free Church of America)
DeanEric H. Halvorson[1]
LocationSanta Ana, CA, US
Faculty5 full-time; 68 adjunct
Bar pass rate22% (7/31) (July 2017 1st time takers)[2]
WebsiteTrinity Law School

Trinity Law School is a private, non-profit law school located in Santa Ana, California, United States.

Background and origins[edit]

Trinity Law School, as it is now known, was founded in 1980 as the Simon Greenleaf School of Law. It was originally located at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, in Santa Ana, California, and in 1982 it relocated to Anaheim, California. In 1997, it relocated from Anaheim to its current location at 2200 N. Grand Ave. in Santa Ana.[3] It was named in honor of the Nineteenth century Harvard law professor Simon Greenleaf who was an authority on the laws of evidence and also wrote The Testimony of the Evangelists: The Gospels Examined by the Rules of Evidence, which was a work of Christian apologetics concerning the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The Simon Greenleaf School of Law was the brain-child of John Warwick Montgomery. Montgomery rose to prominence in the 1960s as a confessional Lutheran theologian and as a Christian apologist. He held the chair of Professor of Church History at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois (1964–74). A founding board of trustees collaborated with Montgomery to establish in 1980 the Simon Greenleaf School of Law.

It commenced operations by offering evening classes that led to the Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree as well as a Bachelor of Science in Law (B.S.L.). Additionally, a one-and-a-half year post-graduate course in Christian Apologetics and International Human Rights was offered that led to the conferral of a Master of Arts degree. Today, the school offers a J.D. program on campus and an online Master of Legal Studies program. They also offer a joint B.A./J.D. degree program with California Baptist University in Riverside, CA.[4]

The founding faculty members, as listed in the inaugural edition of the school's journal The Simon Greenleaf Law Review, in the law program included Ronald S. Ayers, Jack D. Brewer, Beatrice S. Donoghue, Laurence B. Donoghue, Jack W. Golden, Roy W. Hibberd, David L. Llewellyn, John T. Moen, David S. Prescott, Vincent Schmieder and Donald E. Thomas. These faculty members were Christian lawyers who worked in private practices in Southern California.

In 1989, following a six-month self-study, the Board of Trustees approved the restructuring of the academic program to reflect a broader university concept. The name, Simon Greenleaf School of Law, was changed to Simon Greenleaf University during the Fall of 1990.

In 1997, the law school became a part of Trinity International University (TIU), an evangelical Christian institution of higher education headquartered in Deerfield, Illinois, and operated by the Evangelical Free Church of America.[3]

Accreditation and curricula[edit]

Trinity Law School is one of 20 law schools to be accredited by the Committee of Bar Examiners of the State Bar of California.[5][6] It became regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association accreditation when it joined Trinity International University in 1997.[7] Trinity Law School is not accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA).[8]

According to Trinity Law's own website, graduation from Trinity may not qualify a graduate to practice law in any state, other than California. ". . . this law school may not qualify a student to take the bar examination or be admitted to practice law in jurisdictions other than California."[9]

Rankings and awards[edit]

In January 2014, Trinity Law School ranked second on The National Jurist's list of "Most Devout Christian Law Schools," among Liberty University, Regent University, Pepperdine University, and Baylor University.[10][11] In January 2016, they ranked third on the same list.[12]

In March 2014, Trinity Law School's Moot Court team placed first in the Frederick Douglass National Moot Court Competition, held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.[13] Trinity Law School placed ahead of Georgetown University Law Center, two teams from Columbia Law School, and the University of Texas School of Law. In total, 17 schools competed.

Prior to earning that title, they placed second in the Western Regional Championship, held in January 2014 in Sacramento, California, which was the qualifier for the final in Wisconsin. USC Gould School of Law and University of San Diego School of Law were among the schools they defeated.[13]

Because Trinity Law School is not accredited by the ABA, it is not ranked by U.S. News & World Report's 2017 graduate school survey.[14]

Bar pass rate[edit]

In July 2017, seven of thirty-two first time test takers passed the bar examination, for a passage rate of 22%.[15] Accounting for all Trinity Law School graduates who took the July 2017 administration, the passage rate was 18% (20/115).[16] Trinity Law School scored below the statewide passage rate, which was 62% for first-time takers and 49.6 percent in total.[17] It also scored below Thomas Jefferson School of Law which saw the lowest passage rate among ABA accredited schools in California (30% first-time and total).


Trinity Law School was the publisher of Journal of Christian Legal Thought, a publication of Christian Legal Society, from 2013-2016.[18] It also publishes Trinity Law Review, a scholarly journal that is operated by invited students.[19]


Notable founding members of the faculty teaching in the defunct Master of Arts program included Harold Lindsell, Walter Martin, Josh McDowell, and Rod Rosenbladt.

During the 1980s a variety of distinguished Christian and non-Christian lecturers were invited to speak at the school. The school's prospectus for 1986 listed some of these guest lecturers as including Gleason Archer, Norman Geisler, Armand Nicholi, Francis Schaeffer and R. C. Sproul.

The first Dean of the law school during the transition from Simon Greenleaf University to Trinity International University was Shannon "Verleur" Spann (a 1990s graduate of Simon Greenleaf Law School), whose husband, Johnny Micheal Spann (a CIA paramilitary operations officer), was the first American killed in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.[20][21][22]

Scott Lively, a conservative Christian pastor known for calling for criminalization of "the public advocacy of homosexuality" and his support of the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill, received a JD from Trinity Law School.[23]


  1. ^ "Trinity's Year Opener". TIU Newsroom. Retrieved 14 February 2016.
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b "About Trinity Law School". Trinity Law School. Retrieved 14 February 2017.
  4. ^ "Trinity Law School Programs". Trinity Law School. Retrieved 14 February 2017.
  5. ^ "Law Schools in California Approved by the America Bar Association (ABA)". State Bar of California, The. Retrieved 21 February 2014.
  6. ^ "preLaw - Spring 2016". Retrieved 2016-10-12.
  7. ^ "HLCNCA Accreditation Data". Higher Learning Commission, The. Retrieved 20 February 2014.
  8. ^ "ABA-Approved Law Schools by Year". ABA website. Retrieved 1 April 2011.
  9. ^
  10. ^ "The Top Law Schools for Devout Christians". Higher Learning Commission, The. 10 January 2014. Retrieved 21 February 2014.
  11. ^ Stetz, Mike (January 2014). "Best law schools for the devout". Higher Learning Commission, The. Retrieved 21 February 2014.
  12. ^ "preLaw - Spring 2016". Retrieved 2016-10-12.
  13. ^ a b "Trinity Law School Places First in National Moot Court Competition - Trinity Newsroom".
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ "A Breakdown Of California Bar Exam Results By Law School (July 2017)". Above The Law. Retrieved December 29, 2017.
  18. ^ "Journal of Christian Legal Thought - Fall 2013".
  19. ^ Trinity Law Review
  20. ^ "Why We Left TIU".
  21. ^ Widow of CIA officer shows her resolve. Orange County Register, December 13, 2001. Accessed May 25, 2015.
  22. ^ If Anything Happens to Me. Parade Magazine, August 18, 2002.
  23. ^ "Springfield pastor Scott Lively looks to expand his brand of Christian ministry to California's legal system". Retrieved 2018-05-15.

External links[edit]