Student Defense: Ave Maria School of Law

Ave Maria is an independent Catholic law school in North Naples, Florida. Established in 1999, the school's stated mission is a dedication to educating lawyers with the finest professional skills.

Ave Maria School of Law makes the Catholic tradition central to its mission, stating on its website that “Catholic law schools have been the bearers of a tradition that safeguards the dignity of the human person and the common good.

The school's lengthy Honor Code is largely informed by the moral imperatives surrounding the safeguarding of human freedom and integrity.

Academic Misconduct at Ave Maria School of Law

The student handbook outlines a wide range of misconduct and states that all students, staff and administrators, and faculty have “the duty to report promptly to appropriate authority all circumstances they believe constitute a clear violation of this Code, the rules of professional responsibility, or law.”

All these individuals are also bound by a duty to testify and/or give relevant evidence to any alleged violations; failing to do so is considered a violation of the Honor Code (Code).

Examples of prohibited conduct include:

  • Using materials or consulting with another person during the course of an examination
  • Submitting another student's work as one's own
  • Incorporating and submitting for academic credit essentially the same work product that one has submitted in another academic context
  • Making material misrepresentations regarding any Law School class, program, or activity
  • Misappropriating notes, papers, digital and other materials from other students or Law School staff.

The handbook also outlines rules regarding sexual discrimination and harassment and on-campus drug and alcohol use.

Disciplinary Procedures for Academic Misconduct

In agreement, students and the Dean of the Law School have delegated jurisdiction to an Honor Code Committee (Committee) composed of five students—three third-year students and two second-year students—selected by the student body on an annual basis.

As noted earlier, all law students and faculty are duty-bound to report in a signed document anything they believe constitutes an academic violation of the Code. The handbook stipulates that reporting must occur no later than one week after the alleged violation or its discovery.

The Investigation

If a complainant has an accusation that falls within the Committee's jurisdiction over academic misconduct, two investigators will meet with the accused and inform him or her of the charge and the identity of the complainant. Other witnesses who may have knowledge of the alleged violation may also be interviewed.

While the investigation is ongoing, the accused may not have any contact with the Honor Board (Board) or Committee members. Everyone involved will be instructed to keep the matter confidential.

If at least one of the investigators from the Committee finds probable cause that a violation has occurred, the investigators together will send a report and recommendation to the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs (Dean) directing the full Board to set a hearing date within two weeks but not earlier than one week.

Should both investigators find no probable cause, they will send a report and recommendation directing that no hearing be set, and the charges be dropped.

The Hearing

The accused may bring only one person—an Ave Maria School of Law student of his or her choice—to the hearing. But while an attorney-advisor cannot be present for the hearing itself, having a capable, experienced professional help prepare can be a valuable advantage in strongly addressing the charges.

The Board is not bound by formal rules of evidence, but evidence may be admitted based on relevance and fairness. To find the accused guilty of a violation, the Board must be presented with clear and convincing evidence—it should be noted the accused can present all relevant evidence and testify on his or her own behalf—to reach a majority finding.

Possible Sanctions

Should the accused be found to have violated the Code, the Board will make recommendations to the Dean, considering extenuating and mitigating circumstances.

Determined by the majority vote of the Board, sanctions can include reduction of or a failing grade in a course, paper, project, or exam; a written reprimand; suspension from the Law School for a fixed period of time; expulsion from the Law School.

Within 72 hours of the end of the hearing, decisions of the Board will be delivered in writing to the accused.

In all cases where a violation is found, a written report of the proceedings will go on the student's permanent record. Found violations and the accompanying sanctions can be published to the Law School community as appropriate after 15 days in the case of no appeal and after the final adjudication when an appeal is filed.

Appeals

Students found to have committed a violation can appeal the finding or the sanction(s) to the Dean in writing within 15 days of notification. The Dean may overturn the Board's finding, impose a sanction if one is not recommended, increase or reduce the sanction, or change the sanction upon a finding that the Board has abused its discretion.

Why Retain an Attorney-Advisor?

Law school involves a huge commitment of time, energy, and resources. It is an intense, demanding experience. Losing out on the pursuit of a legal career due to one mistake—even if a student denies wrongdoing—can lead to disappointment and a diminished financial future.

Attorney-Advisor Joseph D. Lento specializes in student discipline defense, assisting law students across the country in fighting unreasonable sanctions that jeopardize their future. Whether the situation is a major transgression or an honest mistake, Attorney-Advisor Lento can advise how to approach and prepare for a hearing and obtain the best possible result.

If you are accused of academic misconduct at Ave Maria, it's essential to involve a professional at the earliest stage possible. Call the Lento Law Firm today for a consultation at 888-535-3686.

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If you, or your student, are facing any kind of disciplinary action, or other negative academic sanction, and are having feelings of uncertainty and anxiety for what the future may hold, contact the Lento Law Firm today, and let us help secure your academic career.

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