Law schools have high expectations for their students. They expect that they'll conduct themselves in school with the same integrity and honesty they will one day demonstrate as attorneys. Like other reputable law schools, the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law has its own code of conduct for students, and failure to obey the rules set forth in it could result in serious consequences.
The Pennsylvania Board of Law Examiners also has specific requirements for law school graduates who plan to sit for the bar exam. Candidates must undergo a character and fitness evaluation, in which the Board makes sure the person is fit to represent the legal field and does not pose a danger to the public. This process includes providing an application to the Board that details any past misconduct. The application gives the Board the authority to contact others who can provide more information about the candidate, as well, including:
- Law schools
- Credit agencies
If you've been accused of a serious violation of Villanova Law's code of conduct, you could lose your opportunity to practice law. You need a skilled student defense attorney who can help you defend yourself, save your reputation, and protect your future.
Misconduct at Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law
Villanova Law has its own Academic Code of Conduct, which applies to anyone enrolled in one or more courses in the Juris Doctorate program. Students have an obligation to familiarize themselves with the policies and can face punishment even if they didn't know their actions were a violation of the code.
Some of the more than 20 infractions listed in the code include:
- Using unauthorized materials for reference during exams
- Obtaining or attempting to obtain information about tests prior to taking them
- Withholding or destroying Villanova Law property
- Letting someone else use your work as their own
- Using someone else's work as your own
Villanova University's Law Student Handbook also establishes a process for non-academic student misconduct, which they handle within the law school. Anyone can report an alleged violation of non-academic misconduct regardless of whether the act took place on- or off-campus. Any behavior that the law school administrators think could make a student unfit for the profession could warrant punishment.
How Villanova Law Handles Student Misconduct
Villanova Law has a structured procedure for handling misconduct claims within the law school. The Academic Dean, Faculty Advisor, and Honor Board handle each allegation from initial reporting through the final decision. A hearing panel selected by the Dean handles non-academic violations. However, the process for academic violations is much more extensive.
Any student or faculty member can report a suspected violation of the code to the Academic Dean of Villanova Law. Once they've been informed, the Dean will meet with the person reporting the incident to gather information about it. If the Dean doesn't think the incident is a violation of the code, they'll close the case. Otherwise, they'll let the Accused know that they intend to investigate the incident.
At this stage, the Dean and Faculty Advisor will decide together if they should move forward with the case. They'll draft either a Notice of Dismissal or Probable Cause Report based on their decision, and the case will either be dropped or sent for an Administrative Review. The school must provide all documentation to the Accused and inform the Accused of their right to counsel.
The Dean, Faculty Advisor, and the Accused will meet to discuss the case during the Administrative Review. The Accused can bring counsel or a student of their choosing to discuss the situation. The Accused and the Dean attempt to come to an agreement on whether the Accused committed the act and what the punishment should be.
Even if the Accused doesn't agree that they violated the code, they can agree to a punishment to close the case. If the Dean and the Accused can't agree on the outcome, a person chosen by the Dean will see if there's clear evidence of the violation and, if so, impose a punishment such as:
- Written reprimand recorded in the academic file of the Accused
- Verbal reprimand
- Denial of course credit
- Suspension from certain areas of the law school
- Dismissal from certain activities
- Community service to the law school
In some cases, the law school assembles a Hearing Board to determine the outcome. A Hearing Board consists of three members of the student Honor Board and three faculty members. One member will serve as Chairperson, and that person will preside over the hearing.
The Accused can bring counsel to the hearing and may testify or remain silent. Both parties can question witnesses and make closing statements before the Board makes a final decision by majority vote. The Board can choose any of the same punishments the Dean can impose, but only the Board can decide on suspension or expulsion.
How to Appeal a Misconduct Decision at Villanova Law
At Villanova Law, a student who receives a punishment for academic or non-academic violations cannot appeal the disciplinary action taken by the Dean or Hearing Board unless they were suspended or expelled. In these cases, students have up to five days to submit a petition for review with specific information on the grounds for petition. Faculty will review the petition and decide whether to approve the decision or overturn it.
A Student Defense Attorney Can Help You Defend Yourself
Accusations of misconduct, especially violations of academic codes, can have devastating consequences for law students. Administrative reviews and hearing processes can be confusing and difficult to manage on your own, and their results could stay on your academic record forever. You could also face suspension or expulsion and lose your chance to practice law.
If you've been accused of misconduct at Villanova Law, a student defense attorney can help you fight for your case by communicating with law school faculty on your behalf and ensuring they handle the issue with integrity and respect. Joseph D. Lento has unparalleled experience defending law students facing allegations of misconduct at Villanova Law and across the United States. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686.