The Dickinson School of Law's board of governors might take a final vote on a contested two-campus plan next Saturday, even though a legal battle is being waged over the proposal. The board last month tentatively approved a multimillion-dollar plan to renovate the school's Carlisle campus and create an affiliated law school at Penn State University's main campus in State College.
That vote is being challenged in a lawsuit filed against the board of governors and Penn State by three governors who claim the two-campus plan is not in the law school's best interest and could result in it leaving Carlisle.
One of the governors, G. Thomas Miller, testified for nearly five hours yesterday, trying to convince Cumberland County Judge Edward E. Guido to void the board's January vote.
Miller, a former Dauphin County judge, told Guido he is convinced university officials manipulated the law school governors into accepting the two-campus idea by threatening to withdraw financial support and create their own law school.
Dickinson merged with Penn State in 2000.
"I felt that we were intimidated and coerced by the university to enter into the agreement because of the size of its financial domination," Miller said.
He criticized the proposal's requirement that the board of governors vote itself out of existence -- giving Penn State control over the law school's location -- and the fact that the plan doesn't guarantee the school would remain in Carlisle for more than 10 years.
The governors and the university trustees have approved a memorandum of understanding for the two-campus plan.
The governors voted 17-14 to support it. Miller and the others who brought the suit -- Tom Monteverde and Miller's daughter, Leslie Anne Miller -- were among the dissenters.
Next Saturday's meeting was called for the governors to take a final vote on the proposal, which G. Thomas Miller called "a totally impossible document from the perspective of the future of the law school."
The law school board is violating its duty to protect the law school's interests, he insisted, and its decision to disband is illegal under the terms of the merger pact.
Guido asked why the governors shouldn't be allowed to vote on the final plan. After all, he said, they might shoot it down.
"I don't think it's practical or realistic to think that might happen," Miller said.
The two-campus plan "has to be brought to a halt at this time," he said. "Reason has to be restored. ...We really need to start over."
James M. Horne, the university's lawyer, asked Miller if he thinks the governors -- all "Dickinson-trained lawyers," including a state Supreme Court justice and a former attorney general -- are incapable of making the right call.
"Absolutely," Miller replied.
Guido scheduled the hearing on the case to resume March 4.
Jack Stover, the law school board's attorney, said next Saturday's meeting will proceed. MATT MILLER: 249-2006 or firstname.lastname@example.org