Ave Maria University’s board of governors has voted to move its law school from Ann Arbor to Florida, the Catholic school currently located on Plymouth Road said yesterday.

After almost five years of discussions and research, the board determined that relocating the Ave Maria School of Law gives it the best opportunity to thrive.

“In roughly seven years in Michigan, Ave Maria has become a tremendously successful law school,” law school President and Dean Bernard Dobranski said. “The board believes significant future success will be found in southwest Florida where the law school will be co-located with a new and vibrant Catholic university.”

Thomas Monaghan, founder of Ann Arbor-based Domino’s Pizza Inc., has pledged more than $250 million to construct Ave Maria University. The Florida school, located between Naples and Immokalee, is scheduled to open in the fall of 2009.

Ave Maria opened its doors in 2004 on an interim campus in Naples, about 25 miles west. The school graduated its first class in 2005. It currently has about 400 undergraduate students.

Monaghan, a former owner of the Detroit Tigers, initially intended to build a permanent campus for Ave Maria in Ann Arbor near the Domino’s headquarters, but he couldn’t secure the necessary rezoning rights.

The new campus will be located in the town of Ave Maria, a self-contained community being developed by Monaghan, a devout Roman Catholic.

Monaghan had said that businesses Ave Maria Town – the name is Latin for Hail Mary – would be restricted from selling products that violated Catholic teachings on issues like birth control and pornography.

“You won’t be able to buy a Playboy or Hustler magazine in Ave Maria Town,” Monaghan said at a conference in 2004. “We’re going to control the cable television that comes in the area. There’s not going to be any pornographic television in Ave Maria Town. If you go to the drugstore and you want to buy the pill or the condoms or contraception, you won’t be able to get that.”

After the ACLU threatened lawsuits, though, Monaghan backpedaled.

Many Ave Maria law school faculty had resisted the move to Florida.

The law school’s faculty includes conservative legal heavyweights like Robert Bork, a former federal judge who was nominated to the United States Supreme Court by Ronald Reagan. The Senate, though, refused to confirm him.

– The Associated Press and Andrew Grossman contributed to this report.

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