Students at the University of California, Berkeley, including law students at Berkeley Law, must uphold the values of the university community. These values include honesty, integrity, freedom of expression, and respect for others. Law students, like most graduate students, must conduct themselves in a manner that represents their educational institution well. The University and Berkeley Law have policies that prohibit academic and professional misconduct in order to uphold honesty, integrity, and respect.
When it comes to misconduct, law students have particular considerations. Law students must prove they have the moral character and fitness to practice law, as well as demonstrate their expertise. The state bar's examiners require law graduates to undergo a character and fitness evaluation before they're admitted. Without passing this evaluation, law graduates may not become licensed.
Any instance of misconduct during law school can go on a law student's academic record or transcript, allowing the bar examiners, employers, or other educational institutions to see it. Not only can a misconduct determination in law school derail your academic ambitions, but it can also prevent you from entering the legal profession.
Student Misconduct at Berkeley Law
Berkeley Law has a set of Academic Policies that cover student academic conduct and contain the Law School's honor code. The Honor Code governs the conduct of law students in academic and pre-professional settings at Berkeley Law.
Berkeley Law Honor Code
The Honor Code applies to any activity done for academic credit with the Law School. Berkeley Law expects law students to observe the basic standards of honesty, integrity, responsibility, and respect for the rights of others in all academic and pre-professional work at the Law School. Any student who takes an improper action to gain an unfair advantage or place another student at a disadvantage violates the Honor Code.
Specifically, the Honor Code prohibits:
- Representing someone else's work as your own
- Using unauthorized materials in examinations, whether they're “take-home” or in class
- Obtaining unauthorized help for examinations
- Continuing work on your exam after time is up
- Giving or obtaining exam information
- Mutilation or theft of library material
- Falsification or misrepresentation of law school grades, academic records, recommendations, or other qualifications
In addition to the Law School's Honor Code, law students must follow the University of California Berkeley's Code of Conduct. Berkeley Law will disqualify any student from the Law School if they have violated University policies or campus regulations and received a suspension or dismissal from the Center for Student Conduct as a result.
Academic Misconduct under the University's Code of Conduct
Berkeley Law and the University have overlapping definitions of academic misconduct, but it's worth noting what the University considers academic misconduct, as law students are liable for the University Code of Conduct as well:
- False information and representation
- Fabrication or alteration of information
- Theft or damage of intellectual property
- Alteration of university documents
- Disturbances in the classroom or lab
The list of academic misconduct in Appendix II of the University Code of Conduct isn't exhaustive. Any form of conduct that is unauthorized and intended to give a student an academic advantage may fall under this definition as well.
How Berkeley Law Handles Student Misconduct
The Dean of the Law School receives notice of students who have allegedly violated the Honor Code. The Dean's first course of action is discussing the matter with the accused student, involved instructor, and other knowledgeable persons, to come to an informal resolution.
If these parties can't find an informal resolution or the accused student disagrees with the resolution, the Dean must refer the case to the Campus Dean of Students. The matter then falls under the jurisdiction of the Berkeley Campus Code of Conduct.
An important thing to keep in mind is that even if the Dean of the Law School does not handle the Honor Code violation and it goes through the Center for Student Conduct procedures instead, the Law School Dean still has the authority to inform state bar authorities of academic violations when asked.
Student Misconduct Procedures
The Berkeley Center for Student Conduct handles all complaints of academic misconduct for all graduate and undergraduate students.
After the Center for Student Conduct receives a complaint, they will investigate the alleged misconduct. If the Center charges you with a misconduct violation, you have seven days to respond before they impose automatic sanctions. You can choose to resolve the matter informally with staff from the Center for Student Conduct or formally, with a hearing.
When you ask for a hearing, you can choose either a panel hearing, comprised of members of the Committee on Student Conduct, or an administrative hearing, conducted by the Independent Hearing Officer alone. The hearing body will determine if you violated the code and recommend a sanction if you have.
If you want to appeal the decision of your hearing, you must submit a written appeal to the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs. The Vice Chancellor will review the facts of the hearing and make a determination. While the appeal process is ongoing, sanctions do not take effect.
Note that throughout the entire disciplinary process, you are allowed to have an external advisor present. Your advisor or legal counsel may consult with the Center for Student Conduct on your behalf at meetings and hearings.
How a Student Defense Attorney-Advisor Can Help
The misconduct procedures at the University of California, Berkeley and Berkeley Law are complex. If you're not an expert in university conduct policies, you may struggle to understand what your rights are and how to build the best defense for your case.
Berkeley Law will not hesitate to hand down a determination and sanction to students who don't respect the conduct policies. When you're a law student facing an academic misconduct allegation, your future is on the line, and a specialized legal advisor can help.
Law school disciplinary proceedings are a unique animal, characterized by intense and rigorous proceedings compared to other academic institutions. You do not want to face such proceedings alone because too much is at stake, and the Lento Law Firm can help.
Joseph D. Lento has defended countless law students and graduate and undergraduate students across the country in misconduct cases. Law students who want to safeguard their future careers in the legal profession should contact Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686.