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Appeals Court Upholds Suspension for 3L Who Used Online Contract in Drafting Class

Posted Jun 20, 2011 6:00 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A third-year law student at the University of La Verne who was suspended for using an online contract in her drafting class has lost an appeal in state court.

California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal ruled against the student, Katrina Yu, on her state law claim, the Metropolitan News-Enterprise reports. The court’s opinion (PDF), issued last Wednesday, affirmed a trial judge's decision refusing her request for a preliminary injunction.

Yu was accused of plagiarism and academic dishonesty for using parts of an online document when she and other team members drafted a coffee-supply contract as part of a class assignment. She was also accused of copying another student’s work; she contended, however, it was he who copied from her.

Two other classmates accepted school “plea bargains,” but Yu declined. A hearing board gave her a failing grade in the class, but the dean increased her punishment to a suspension when she appealed.

Yu had contended the increased punishment violated California’s so-called Leonard Law, which bars private universities from punishing students for speech that would be protected by the First Amendment if made off-campus. The court found that Yu’s university appeal did constitute speech within the meaning of the law, but said she had failed to show that the dean’s decision was based solely on her exercise of free-speech rights.

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