The Oregonian reports that Ann Aiken, chief judge of the U.S. District Court in Oregon, wrote a scathing March 5 opinion that sharply criticized law schools for burdening graduates with excessive debt. Aiken’s opinion said that law school is meant to be a means for individuals to achieve financial stability, yet this is “no longer true, due in large part to the high cost of law school tuition.”

High tuition costs have been noted across the nation. As we posted earlier, certain law schools have responded by capping tuition. Despite her criticism of tuition levels, Aiken reversed a lower court's ruling that helped a law school graduate discharge $50,000 worth of debt. The law school graduate had to file for bankruptcy due to the overbearing debt payments, a situation that is expected to face an increasing number of graduates.

The Oregonian noted that law school graduates typically assume $100,000 or more in debt. Additionally, many students pursue bar review classes that can inflict an additional $15,000. The hopes of making it as an associate and paying off student loans are also dwindling. In an earlier post, we noted how the recent ABA Report on law school curricula changes reflects the worsening job market for many law school graduates. 

Aiken’s opinion similarly posits: “Job prospects are not likely to improve in the immediate future. In fact, for the class of 2011, there are even fewer employment opportunities, as those graduates must compete against unemployed graduates from previous years for the same limited number of entry-level positions.” She said that this issue can only be solved on a systematic level.