Student Defense - Washburn University School of Law

Founded in 1903, Washburn University is located in Topeka, Kansas. The school's website describes its virtues as such:

The essence of Washburn Law is the commitment of the law school community at every level – from the dean's office to facilities staff – to the success of our students. Our network of more than 7,000 alumni located in 49 states and internationally includes nationally recognized lawyers, state and federal judges, politicians, journalists, and senior executives of Fortune 500 companies.

The law school honor code (Code) is explicit in its priorities: establishing an environment of integrity and mutual trust so students can maximize their academic and intellectual potential. It is direct: “The Honor Code reminds all members of the law school community that success obtained through dishonest or unprofessional means is no success at all.”

Conduct Subject to Sanctions

The Code specifies what will subject a student to action under it, including:

  • Academic improprieties including cheating, plagiarism, copying another student's work, obtaining in any way an unreleased examination, submitting essentially the same work as one has done in a previous examination or project, improper recording or distribution of class materials or discussions, or intentionally causing a disadvantage to another student. The Code makes the point that even if these improprieties are discovered after graduation, a law degree can be withdrawn. (Emphasis ours.)
  • Violations or convictions of laws or regulations—federal, state, or local
  • Violations involving university documents or records
  • Misconduct involving access to the university or to university functions
  • Conduct that threatens, endangers, or harms a person or property
  • Academic misconduct at another educational institution

Mitigating Factors for Sanctions

While the full range of sanctions (see below) may be applied to any violation(s), there are a few factors considered by the school to be relevant as either mitigating or aggravating which sanctions are imposed:

  • Conscientious admission of a transgression before the student believes himself to be suspected of it; less mitigating is an admission after an accusation is made
  • Negligent versus intentional—if the conduct is unintentional, it will be interpreted as less serious
  • Degree or seriousness of the offense
  • Reflection of character and fitness to practice law
  • Prior misconduct can be an aggravating factor
  • Any discriminatory factors that led to the charge of an infraction can be mitigating

Potential Sanctions

Conviction of a violation of the Code can range from written or verbal warnings and/or a reduction in grades to monetary or other restitution to loss of scholarship and access to facilities. In the most serious circumstances, it can lead to probation, suspension, or expulsion. The Dean can also make a report to any applicable bar examiners or other oversight authorities.

Rules of Procedure

The Honor Code Committee (Committee) is comprised of five student members appointed by the Washburn Student Bar Association along with a faculty member appointed by the Dean. Whenever the Dean is informed by the Code investigator of a decision to prosecute a student under the Code, the Dean shall appoint a faculty member to prosecute the case before the Honor Code Committee. The person appointed to prosecute the case may be the investigator on the case but cannot be one and the same as the faculty advisor to the Committee.

Investigation

Any individual with knowledge of a potential violation of the Code is obligated to report it “within a reasonable time,” after which the investigator must make within two days a preliminary determination of whether to move forward with a formal inquiry; this preliminary investigation must be completed within ten days.

If the accused, during the course of the preliminary investigation, admits to the wrongdoing, the investigator will consult with the Dean to determine the appropriate sanctions, which will be imposed should the accused agree. If the accused doesn't agree with the sanctions, the Committee will confer for the specific purpose of recommending appropriate sanctions.

Timing

Discovery will be limited to the prosecutor providing to the accused within five days of the hearing date a list of witnesses who will be called to testify by the prosecutor, a summary of their testimony, and any relevant documents to be introduced. Likewise, within three days of the hearing date, the accused will provide the same to the prosecutor.

The Hearing

The only persons permitted to attend the hearing will be the accused, his/her counsel, the Committee, the faculty advisor, the prosecutor, the presiding officer, and witnesses.

Even though an attorney/advisor is not permitted to attend the hearing, the accused still has the right to hire one. Having a skilled legal professional with experience in academic misconduct cases can be a valuable asset as an accused prepares for a hearing. An attorney/advisor can help select witnesses based on their integrity and relevance and can prepare the accused to cross-examine the witnesses testifying against him/her.

For the purposes of the hearing, the accused has the right to remain silent, and no adverse inferences will be drawn from this decision.

Determining Guilt or Innocence and Sanctions

As soon as is practicable, the Committee will determine guilt or innocence; a ruling requires a vote of three out of five members of the Committee. If a determination of not guilty is reached, the proceedings shall terminate immediately. All participants shall be informed in writing.

If the Committee reaches a decision of guilt by the accused and agrees on appropriate sanctions, they will recommend these to the Dean. Should the Committee find the accused guilty but cannot agree on sanctions, they will convey in writing their disparate views to the Dean, who will then make a ruling on the sanctions. They will also send a copy of their report and recommendations to the prosecutor and the accused.

Other Rights of the Dean

The Dean has the right to postpone a student's graduation as an investigation unfolds; he or she can also impose an emergency suspension pending resolution of an academic misconduct complaint.

Confidentiality

The school and Committee will make every effort to preserve confidentiality on the part of the accused and others involved in an investigation. The Dean will have discretion as to whether the final ruling will be publicly posted at the school.

Your Right To an Attorney/Advisor

Washburn University School of Law permits a student accused of academic misconduct to hire legal counsel in the face of a charge. Joseph D. Lento has successfully represented students across the country in high-stakes cases—and the earlier he is involved, the better the chances of a positive resolution. Call Joseph D. Lento at 888-535-3686.

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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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