Students attending San Diego's California Western School of Law (CWSL) can expect swift sanctions for any determination of wrongdoing. The CWSL Honor Code, which you can access online, requires students to be “truthful, responsible, and professional” towards all members of the CWSL community.
Law students should know that they will be judged critically by their peers and superiors. The mission of practicing law requires students to exemplify the utmost integrity, and any perceived ethical shortcomings could result in significant consequences. That said, mistakes and misunderstandings happen, and they should not necessarily define your personal and professional futures.
The State Bar of California and Bar Associations and other state bar associations consider moral character when weighing your admission to practice law. Any formal sanctions against you while in law school could interfere with your ability to practice law in the future.
If you are facing disciplinary action from CWSL, then now is the time to retain an attorney-advisor.
Academic and Professional Misconduct at California Western School of Law
An allegation of academic misconduct at CWSL can start a chain of events that, if those events do not result in your favor, may jeopardize your eligibility to practice law.
Whether or not you intended to commit misconduct, you may face sanctions for:
- Overt plagiarism, which is when you use another person's ideas or work without any citation
- Covert plagiarism, which is when you cite another's work but do so in a manner that is misleading
- Submitting work that you have previously submitted for another course, clerkship, or independent study
- Other forms of academic dishonesty
CWSL places great emphasis on plagiarism as a threat to academic integrity. Any instance where you use ideas, phrases, or sources without proper investigation or citation could result in an accusation of plagiarism.
Legal writing often requires students to cite specific statutes, opinions, and precedent-setting cases. The possibility of committing unintentional plagiarism while you are in law school may be great. Context is very important when an allegation of academic wrongdoing arises, and an attorney-advisor can provide the necessary context as part of your defense.
In addition to academic guidelines, CWSL students are bound by the California Western School of Law Code of Student Professional Conduct. This code specifically prohibits “dishonesty, fraud, deceit, theft, misrepresentation, or harassment” by CWSL students. You may face sanctions, including potential dismissal, if you are found in violation of CWSL's Code of Student Professional Conduct.
How California Western School of Law Handles Alleged Misconduct
Article III of CWSL's Code of Student Professional Conduct details adjudication of cases where misconduct is alleged. Such cases may stem from either academic or professional misconduct.
After someone reports an allegation against you, the following sequence may unfold:
- Informal inquiry: The Vice Dean for Academic and Student Affairs or the Assistant Dean for Student & Diversity Services will review the allegation against you and start an inquiry, should they deem it necessary. The presiding Dean or their appointed investigator may speak with you as part of this informal inquiry.
- Informal Administrative Disposition: In other words, the presiding Dean may decide whether to dismiss your case, issue sanctions of their own choosing, divert your case for an informal resolution, or divert your case for a formal resolution.
- Formal Disposition: If the Dean diverts your case for a formal resolution, then CWSL's Professional Responsibility Committee (PRC) will overtake your case.
- PRC Hearing: You can request a hearing in front of a PRC-assigned Hearing Panel, either before the PRC issues a decision or following its decision. As the accused, you have the right “to be present, to receive a statement of the charges against [you], to be personally heard, and to present appropriate evidence and arguments.” You can have an attorney-advisor serve as your spokesperson during this hearing.
- Issuance of a Formal Resolution: The PRC will issue a written decision to be delivered no more than ten days after your hearing. The decision will contain any sanctions that the PRC “deems proper and just.” The PRC could instead find that you have not provably violated the Code of Student Professional Conduct.
The Dean for Academic and Student Affairs, Vice Dean for Academic and Student Affairs, and the Assistant Dean for Student & Diversity Services have final authority to impose sanctions.
CWSL allows students the right to appeal most punitive decisions. Per Section 9.04 of the CWSL Student Handbook, you may appeal a decision of expulsion from the law program within ten business days of receiving notice of dismissal. Appeals are generally time-sensitive, making it critical that you speak with an attorney-advisor if you have not already.
Potential Sanctions for Law School Misconduct
Disciplinary bodies at CWSL may impose a range of sanctions against you. Suspension and expulsion from CWSL are the most serious sanctions that the university can impose. Yet, even less serious sanctions could:
- Delay your graduation from CWSL
- Be a permanent demerit on your academic record
- Negatively affect your career ambitions
- Negatively affect your future earning capacity
Appendix A of CWSL's Academic Policies explains that “The Ethics Committee of the State Bar Association will ask you to account for any charges of plagiarism leveled against you.” The State Bar Association may also ask you about sanctions for professional misconduct. Depending on the State Bar's opinion of sanctions against you, CWSL's decision in your case could compromise your plan to practice law.
You must handle any pending allegations against you with the utmost seriousness. This means hiring an attorney-advisor to form a proper defense against allegations of wrongdoing and to work towards a fair process and the best possible outcome.
How an Attorney-Advisor Can Help You
CWSL allows you to retain a spokesperson for your pending case. Take advantage of this allowance, as an attorney-advisor can be of greater help than you may realize.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento defends law students day in and day out as a primary practice area. As a former law student, Attorney Lento understands the pressures that those in your position face. He is familiar with disciplinary procedures at law schools in California and will defend you throughout the adjudication process at CWSL.
Issues that arise in law school have the potential to determine the course of your life. Retain an attorney-advisor with the necessary experience helping law students like you. Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 or contact us online using this link.