Florida State University Law School is proud to be ranked as one of the top law schools in the United States, according to U.S. News and World Report and Business Insider.
Preparation for a legal career is not limited to the classroom, as FSU Law has three “live client” clinics. FSU also provides its students with externship opportunities in more than 100 law offices in the Sunshine State.
To ensure its students' safety and set them up for success, FSU Law has a set of bylaws to govern student activities, including a procedure to govern disciplinary matters.
The faculty, administration, and students come together in an attempt to give the student a fair hearing and serve the interests of justice.
Violations of the Bylaws
FSU Law prohibits more actions than merely cheating on a test. Giving or receiving help on an exam or other academic assignment is not allowed.
Plagiarism is another violation to avoid. Correct attribution is required, along with proper identification of sources for paraphrases and quotes.
In the event of a plagiarism accusation, a student would have the opportunity to plead that the violation was a mistake. In this case, the standard of proof is the preponderance of the evidence.
Other violations of the FSU bylaws include:
- Damaging library materials
- Disrupting an examination
- Destroying a fellow student's work
- Falsification of documents
- Any violations of the law
What Happens When an Offense is Discovered?
While students, staff, and faculty are expected to report suspected offenses, they do not commit an offense themselves if they fail to do so.
If probable cause of a violation exists, the dean will appoint a faculty member as the investigator. This faculty member must not be a witness or accuser in the case.
The investigator will contact the student accused of the offense and will also interview witnesses. The goal is to determine whether a hearing should take place.
The investigator can also interview the accused student, who is not obligated to submit to the interview.
When the investigation has concluded, the faculty member will make a recommendation to the dean on whether the matter should proceed to a hearing.
The dean has the following options:
- Accept the recommendation in part or in whole
- Reject the recommendation in part or in whole
- Revise the complaint
- Initiate a complaint despite a recommendation that the matter should be terminated
With this final option, the dean must provide reasons and documents to support the decision to continue the matter, even though the investigator has recommended terminating it.
If the dean agrees to proceed with a hearing, the accused will have all of the investigation documents to help prepare for it. If the accused does not admit guilt within 15 days, the dean will appoint a panel to conduct the hearing.
The panel will consist of three faculty members and two students, who will be approved for the task by the Student Bar Association. The dean will also appoint one of the faculty members as the panel chair. Ten days must pass after the panel's appointment before the hearing can begin.
By stark contrast to a regular courtroom hearing, the investigator will not only present evidence against the student, but also evidence that would lead to the student's exoneration.
The accused can also have an attorney to help present evidence and cross-examine witnesses. The student can assert innocence or present mitigating circumstances.
When the hearing has concluded, the panel will meet in a closed session to determine guilt or innocence, as well as any sanctions that are appropriate. Four of the five panel members must vote in favor of guilt or sanctions.
The panel will present its written recommendation to the dean within five school days. The accused will receive a copy of the panel's findings and will have 10 school days to submit written exceptions to the dean.
Penalties for violations of the bylaws include:
- Lowering of a course grade
- Disclosure of the incident to Bar agencies and the College of Law
- Oral or written reprimand
- Restitution for stolen or damaged property
- Loss of privileges to participate in school activities
- Suspension or expulsion from school
While the panel adjudicates the case, the dean ultimately has the power to determine the student's fate. The dean can reject the panel's determination and also decides which recommended sanctions to impose, if any.
Even if the panel and dean agree on the issues of guilt and sanctions, the student may have a second chance. Within five days of learning of the decision, the student can request a faculty review if he can garner the support of five instructors.
The faculty panel has the power to reduce or suspend the sanctions against the student, by a majority vote.
University Code Violations
Florida State University also has a Student Code of Conduct that governs its entire student body. It details other prohibited conduct, including gender-based discrimination and sexual harassment.
Physical harassment and bullying is also prohibited, along with hazing. The code also disallows invasion of privacy and the unauthorized use of drugs, alcohol, firearms and other weapons.
In addition, the code prohibits the intimidation or coercion of anyone who may report a violation of the code. Retaliation against these witnesses is also prohibited.
The code also prohibits the forgery and sale of identification cards, as well as misrepresenting your identity on campus.
Theft and damage of school property are also mentioned as code violations, as well as gambling and the unauthorized use of computer equipment.
Who Can Help If You Are Accused of a Violation?
Accusations of this magnitude can unfortunately have serious effects on your career and your future. Both at Florida State and in general, law school disciplinary proceedings are a unique in that they are characterized by an intense process with literally everything at stake. If you are found responsible, you will be sanctioned, and sanctions can include suspension or expulsion from law school. The immediate consequences of such an outcome can be compounded by other issues, such as being saddled with student loan debt with no hope of a lucrative career in the law to help satisfy them. If suspended or expelled from Florida State Law School, you may have difficulty gaining acceptance to another school or being admitted to the Bar.
Too much is at stake to take any chances. As importantly, you don't have to fight this battle alone. You need an advocate by your side who has handled countless cases like yours. Call Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 and learn how they can stand up for you.