The University of Houston Law Center (UHLC) prepares students to enter the legal profession and, as such, expects all students to demonstrate ethical conduct. Attorneys are endowed with public trust and are therefore held to high moral and professional standards through the American Bar Association, state bar associations, and state laws. At UHLC, honesty, integrity, and transparency in all academic and professional work are not only required but also a fundamental part of obtaining a law degree.
UHLC students who do not adhere to the standards set by the law school may face severe disciplinary actions. Consequences for violating these codes of behavior include sanctions from the law school, but may also go further. Students with an academic misconduct notation on their law school record may struggle to gain clerkships or employment. They may also be ineligible to pass their state bar association's character and fitness evaluation.
If you are a UHLC student who's been accused of academic misconduct or an honor code violation, your future in the legal profession may be at stake.
Student Misconduct at UHLC
All students at UHLC must follow the rules in the Student Handbook, which governs law student conduct. UHLC also has an Honor Code that prohibits certain forms of academic misconduct and a Plagiarism Policy. The Honor Code applies to each student enrolled at UHLC, from the time they are admitted until graduation, and students are responsible for knowing and understanding the code.
Examples of Honor Code Violations at UHLC
To constitute a violation of the UHLC Honor Code, a student must commit an action intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or negligently. Some examples of conduct that violates the Honor Code include:
- Receiving unauthorized aid before or during an exam
- Taking more time to complete an exam than is permitted
- Not following specific instructions a faculty member or administration official has imposed to secure the exam
- Receiving or using unauthorized materials or aid before or in connection with a competition
Failing to review and apply the Plagiarism Policy
- Knowingly plagiarizing a work submitted for credit, an honor, or certain status
- Permitting another student to plagiarize one's work
- Making a false pledge on any paper or exam
- Misleading or deceptive acts concerning a student's attendance record
- Mutilating, defacing, obliterating, or otherwise damaging academic materials of another
- Removing, misshelving, or secluding academic materials from UHLC
- Disrupting or modifying access to computers or wireless services at UHLC
- Intimidation, coercion, dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation in connection with an Honor Code violation proceeding
How Does the University of Houston Law Center Handle Misconduct?
UHLC has an Honor Board comprised of six faculty members and six students. This Board breaks up into Hearing Panels of three members (two students and one faculty member) to hear cases of alleged violations of the Honor Code. If a student or faculty member at UHLC suspects an Honor Code violation, they must report it to a faculty member on the Honor Board. Two Honor Board members will investigate the claim and decide if the case goes any further.
Before the Hearing takes place, accused students have the choice to resolve the matter by admitting to the violations and accepting penalties. If the student doesn't accept the charge, however, the matter proceeds to a hearing.
At the Hearing, accused students have the right to confront and cross-examine witnesses, and can choose to offer evidence. A Presenter, who represents the law school, will do the same. Accused students can also testify on their own behalf if they so choose. At the Hearing, students may have either a layperson or an attorney accompany them, but they can only be represented by a Student Representative.
The Hearing Panel will deliberate and must not find the student in violation of the code unless satisfied by clear and convincing evidence. An accused student is only guilty of the violation if two of the three members of the Hearing Panel vote in favor of guilt. If a student is found guilty, they and the Presenter can present evidence before the Panel concerning an appropriate penalty. The Hearing Panel can then impose a sanction.
Students found guilty of violating the Honor Code can appeal to the Dean, who will review and come to a final decision. If there is newly discovered evidence or lack of substantial justice found at any time after the violation decision becomes final, the accused student may also appeal to the Honor Board for a new hearing.
Possible Sanctions for Honor Code Violations
Hearing Panels for Honor Code violations at UHLC may only impose one of the following penalties if an accused student is found guilty:
- Permanent suspension from UHLC along with loss of some or all prior credit
- Suspension from UHLC for a definite period of time, along with loss of some or all prior credit
- Suspension from UHLC for an indefinite period of time without loss of credit
- Requirement to complete additional coursework
- Full or partial loss of credit in any course involved in the violation
- Grade reduction in any course involved in the violation
- Requirement to retake all or a portion of a course involved in the violation
- Forfeiture of any office held in a UHLC organization
- Restitution for monetary loss
- Required service to UHLC or its students
- Private reprimand
How Can a Student Defense Attorney-Advisor Help?
If you are facing an Honor Code violation at UHLC, your future legal career in jeopardy. Even law students who excel in their classes will have little experience with university disciplinary procedures, especially the intense processes that law schools utilize to address misconduct. It's natural to feel overwhelmed by an investigation and hearing, and not student should leave anything to chance with so much at stake. An experienced attorney-advisor can help you prepare your defense and collect evidence, increasing your chances of a fair process and getting a favorable outcome.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has helped hundreds of law students across the country defend themselves in academic misconduct procedures at their institutions. Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to discuss your case.