Student Defense – Cornell Law School

Cornell University expects every student to undertake their academic careers with the utmost integrity, honesty, and respect for the intellectual efforts of oneself and others. The University and Cornell Law also require students to conduct themselves with integrity in all situations related to the University—not just in academic settings.

As a law student at Cornell, you are subject to both the University's and the Law School's conduct standards. If you're accused of academic or professional misconduct and the Law School finds you guilty, it could jeopardize more than your academic career. A misconduct determination on your law school record could prevent you from passing a character and fitness evaluation for the state bar.

When you're facing a misconduct allegation at Cornell Law, you need the assistance of a practiced student defense attorney-advisor.

Law Student Misconduct at Cornell

Academic integrity is a fundamental part of a Cornell Law degree. The Student Handbook explicitly states that without it, law students cannot expect to receive their degrees. The Dean of the Law School also certifies the moral character of law graduates when they seek admission to the bar. If a student has an academic integrity infraction on their record, the Dean cannot speak to the graduate's character.

Conducting yourself according to Cornell Law's academic and professional standards is a necessity to become a lawyer. If you're accused of academic misconduct, expect Cornell Law to take the accusation very seriously.

Cornell Law has a Code of Academic Integrity and Standards for Professional Conduct. Law students at Cornell must also adhere to Cornell University’s Campus Code of Conduct.

The Code of Academic Integrity mentions examples of behaviors that are prohibited:

  • Representing the work of others as one's own (plagiarism)
  • Using, obtaining, or providing unauthorized assistance on examinations or any other academic work (cheating)
  • Depriving another member of the Law School community of their books, notes, or other study materials without their permission
  • Violating library regulations in a way that disadvantages others
  • Violating rules of integrity for Law School extracurricular activities
  • Misrepresenting or falsifying information to a member of the Law School community or potential employer concerning academic or employment matters
  • Submitting work for credit that was previously used in another course or employment setting, without the approval of the instructor
  • Forging a signature to certify completion of an assignment
  • Classroom misconduct such as recording and transmitting lectures to other students without the instructor's permission
  • Violating the computer use and network systems policy

Cornell Law's Standards of Professional Conduct

All members of the Cornell Law community must be respectful to each other and display professional behavior at all times. The Law School's Standards of Professional Conduct provides guidelines for this type of respectful conduct:

  • Epithets and ad hominem attacks are always inappropriate. Speakers should derive their arguments from their own experiences and should not attack others.
  • Students must respect and consider the educational and professional aspirations of others.
  • Destroying notices, posters, or bulletin boards for individuals or groups is not appropriate.
  • Students shouldn't assign or receive professional obligations on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or disability.
  • Instructors should make exams as fair and non-distracting as possible.
  • Sexual harassment and physical intimidation are not allowed.

How Cornell Law Handles Academic Misconduct

Cornell Law faculty members may have the authority to lower grades or offer no credit to students who talk during an exam, bring unauthorized materials to the exam, or engage in disruptive behavior in the classroom. The Code of Academic Integrity makes a distinction between academic misconduct and violation of academic integrity. Faculty members can handle misconduct (one of the three previous examples) on their own, but a violation of academic integrity must go through the organized disciplinary procedures.

Primary Hearing

If a faculty member at Cornell Law accuses of you violating the Code of Academic Integrity, you may have a primary hearing with the faculty and one independent witness. You may bring an advisor and additional witnesses to this primary hearing. The faculty member will state their allegation, and you can respond. The faculty member has the power to dismiss the charge or find you guilty and if you're guilty, impose a grade sanction. You can appeal the decision of the primary hearing by seeking review from the Academic Integrity Hearing Board.

Academic Integrity Hearing Board

The faculty member in your primary hearing only has the power to give you a failing grade; they cannot impose harsher sanctions. If they think a failing grade is too lenient, they can bring your case to the Academic Integrity Hearing Board. At a hearing before the Board, both you and the accusing faculty member may present your arguments. You may have an advisor present with you at this hearing as well. The Board will vote to determine if you have violated the Code of Academic Integrity or not.

Potential Sanctions for Student Misconduct at Cornell Law

The Academic Integrity Hearing Board may recommend the following sanctions to students who have violated the Code of Academic Integrity:

  • Confirmation of the faculty member's failing grade
  • Probation
  • Suspension
  • Adding an academic integrity violation notation to an official transcript
  • Expulsion
  • Other suitable actions such as counseling, community service, or reprimand

Appeals Process

If you want to appeal the Board's decision, you have four weeks to notify the Dean of the Law School. The Dean will review the case and may decide to disregard the Board's recommendation for sanctions or to uphold it.

Can a Student Defense Advisor Help?

When you're facing formal disciplinary procedures at Cornell Law, you might feel overwhelmed. A specialized student defense attorney-advisor can help you successfully navigate an intense process, craft your defense strategy, and coach you on what to say at your hearing. Your advisor can also review all the relevant policies to ensure Cornell Law is granting you your rights throughout the proceedings.

Attorney Joseph D. Lento has defended thousands of graduate and undergraduate students at universities across the nation. The Lento Law Firm can help you defend yourself from an academic or professional misconduct accusation and safeguard your future as a lawyer. Call today at 888-535-3686 to discuss your options.

Contact Us Today!


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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