Student Defense: St. Thomas University School of Law

St. Thomas University School of Law is a private law school part of the St. Thomas University system in Miami Gardens, Florida. Despite its relatively recent establishment in 1984, the law school is carving a place in Florida as a diverse and minority-centric institution. STU College of Law offers the JD, LL.M, and JSD degrees in addition to legal writing, joint degree, and clinical programs. With multiple options for flexibility and its welcoming environment, STU College of Law is rapidly developing a more positive reputation in Florida and the East coast.

To become successful attorneys, STU College of Law students must avoid academic misconduct and maintain ethical behavior. The law school's honor code stresses these values and strives to maintain a level playing field for students. Those suspected of wrongdoing or ethical violations face sanctions that impede their progress, including suspension and expulsion. Although not all cases lead to these extreme results, allegations of misconduct have a detrimental effect on a student's future and delay graduation.

Academic Integrity and Honor Code

All students attending STU College of Law must follow the honor code, which outlines their responsibilities and ethical standards. It maintains that all law school students must commit to integrity, trust, and respect. Law students must adhere to self-regulation and demonstrate exemplary ethical behavior befitting their future professions. As a result, they must refrain from the following actions which constitute violations:

  • Cheating: As in most law schools, cheating is a violation. It allows students to gain an unfair academic advantage over their peers. Examples listed in the code include securing information about an exam before administration, using prohibited materials for an intellectual exercise, and copying a peer's work.
  • Plagiarism: Students must avoid plagiarizing their work. This act involves using another person's theories or material without listing the source. Another form of this violation is summarizing an idea and passing it off as one's own. Multiple submissions to professors without letting them know is also plagiarism.
  • Misconduct Involving Library Materials: Students must not deface or damage library materials. Sabotaging these places peers at a disadvantage as they cannot access the material for study.
  • Misrepresentation: Students must not knowingly misrepresent facts, use another person's work, or pretend that they have more qualifications to gain placement in the law school.
  • Miscellaneous Offenses: Violations that don't fall into a specific category are part of this segment of offenses. Examples include violating standards of professional conduct during a clinical program at the law school and furnishing administrators with false information.
  • General Unfitness: This segment includes dishonesty, breaches of trust, and unprofessional conduct.
  • Serious Risk: if a student poses a risk to others in the law school, they violate the terms of the honor code and are subject to sanctions.

All law school members must report violations of the honor code. Depending on the nature and seriousness of the allegation, a hearing process determines the sanctions for the alleged infarction.

The Hearing Process

The hearing process starts with the complaint, a written statement sent to the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, the Assistant Dean for Student Affairs, or the Assistant Dean for Academic Support. The designated chair reviews the allegation within seven days and determines whether the matter progresses to the Honor Council. The council investigates to decide whether enough evidence exists to establish a hearing.

According to the honor code, the hearing is inquisitorial and non-adversarial. Students may have one person present for support, such as an attorney-advisor. Still, they cannot participate in the proceedings. The accused can request witnesses, make an opening and closing statement, and refuse to answer incriminating questions. Once the hearing ends, the council members deliberate privately to determine guilt or innocence based on clear and convincing evidence.

Appeals Process

Fortunately, students have the right to appeal the honor council's decision, the sanctions, or both to the Dean of the Law School. The student must state the reasons for an appeal in their request and send it no later than ten business days after receiving the decision. After a thorough review of the matter, the Dean may decrease or increase the severity of the sanctions. Students may not request another review after the Dean makes their final decision.

Possible Sanctions for Violating the Honor Code

Honor code violations come with hefty penalties that harm a law student's progress. The sanctions depend on the nature of the case and any previous infarctions. They include:

  • A public discussion if the accused contests in writing
  • Restitution or service to STU College of Law
  • Dismissal or suspension from partaking in Law School activities and privileges
  • Restriction from entering the Law School's library
  • A downward grade adjustment, withdrawal from the course, or denial of credit
  • Public notice with details of the incident
  • A private or public reprimand
  • Placement on disciplinary probation
  • Temporary dismissal from STU College of Law
  • Permanent discharge from the university
  • Revocation of a degree in the event of a student's graduation

Although not all of these sanctions harm a student's future, receiving sanctions causes reputation damage. Moreover, any notation on the student's transcript may prevent them from finding placement in another law school in case of dismissal.

Hiring an Attorney-Advisor

As a law student, you work hard to train and increase your knowledge to become a future attorney. However, as a student, you will likely make mistakes. Unfortunately, some are more impactful than others and may delay your graduation prospects. When you face allegations of academic misconduct, you need the knowledge and expertise of a skilled attorney-advisor.

Attorney-Advisor Joseph D. Lento specializes in student discipline defense. With years of experience helping law students throughout the US defend themselves against allegations of misconduct, you'll have a shoulder to rely on during this stressful time.

Don't wait until the appeals process to take control of the situation. Every moment is critical before you face a hearing panel. Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 for more information.

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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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