Thursday, April 9, 2020

Law School Honor Code Violation Is a Basis for Denying Bar Admission

By Jonathan H. Adler - April 09, 2020 at 01:07PM

There won't be many proctored, in-class law school exams this semester. Most all exams will be administered online as open-book, take home exams. Some schools and professors already administer these sorts of exams, but others do not. Among the reasons some professors prefer proctored, in-class exams is that this format reduces the risks of cheating as compared with unproctored, take-home exams (particularly if such exams are self-scheduled, as not all students take the exam at the same time).

Students that cheat on exams risk more than their grades. They can also risk their bar admission, at least in the state of Ohio. In October 2018, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled in In re Application of Baldwin that impermissible collaboration on a take-home exam, and subsequent efforts to deny such collaboration occurred, was a sufficient basis to deny bar admission. From the Court's unanimous decision:

An applicant to the Ohio bar must prove by clear and convincing evidence that he or she "possesses the requisite character, fitness, and moral qualifications for admission to the practice of law." Gov.Bar R. I(11)(D)(1). The applicant's record must justify "the trust of clients, adversaries, courts, and others with respect to the professional duties owed to them." Gov.Bar R. I(11)(D)(3). "A record manifesting a significant deficiency in the honesty, trustworthiness, diligence, or reliability of an applicant may constitute a basis for disapproval of the applicant." Id.

Here, the board's findings demonstrate that Baldwin not only committed an honor-code violation during her final year of law school, but she also made false and deceptive statements throughout the school's honor-code investigation and her character-and-fitness proceedings. See Gov.Bar R. I(11)(D)(3)(d), (h), and (i). Given the recency of Baldwin's conduct and her disturbing lack of candor in the subsequent investigation and proceedings, we agree with the board that she has failed to carry her burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence that she possesses the requisite character, fitness, and moral qualifications for admission to the bar at this time.

The Court disapproved Baldwins' pending application, but said she could reapply for a subsequent bar exam in February 2021 or later. (She had initially applied for the July 2017 and February 2018 exams.)


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