The problem with this ruling is that attorney Nichols has already demonstrated a lack of ethical concern for the RULES before he even began practicing law. This is NOT good for the protection of the public which is the stated purpose of the Wisconsin State Bar. If attorney Nichols thought law school was tough and stressful and thus reason to violate the rules - heads up - the real world only gets worse in a law practice dealing with the problems of real (and many time very messed up) people. This is a disaster in the making - stay tuned.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court admitted an applicant who had engaged in plagiarism as a law student notwithstanding the adverse conclusion of its Board of Bar Examiners.
The Board's refusal to certify that Mr. Nichols satisfied the character and fitness requirements for admission to the Wisconsin bar was based primarily on Mr. Nichols' academic misconduct during his third year in law school and his failure to disclose certain matters on his bar application. After careful review, we reverse and remand the matter to the Board for further proceedings.
We appreciate the Board's concern regarding this applicant. We appreciate the thorough investigation the Board conducted into Mr. Nichols' background and past conduct. Mr. Nichols' application raised significant questions about his fitness to practice law. The duty to examine an applicant's qualifications for bar admission rests initially on the Board, and this court relies heavily on the Board's investigation and evaluation. In the final analysis, however, this court retains supervisory authority and has the ultimate responsibility for regulating admission to the Wisconsin bar. See In re Bar Admission of Rippl, 2002 WI 15, ¶3, 250 Wis. 2d 519, 639 N.W.2d 553, and In re Bar Admission of Vanderperren, 2003 WI 37, ¶2, 261 Wis. 2d 150, 661 N.W.2d 27.
While we understand the Board's decision, we conclude that the incidents the Board relied upon, while troubling, are sufficiently offset by positive character evidence to warrant our conclusion that Mr. Nichols may be admitted to the practice of law in Wisconsin, albeit with conditions. Accordingly, we reverse.
The applicant had accepted an unpaid internship with the Office of the Lieutenant Governor and
During the fall of 2014, his third year in law school, Mr. Nichols struggled to manage his work, volunteer service, and academic coursework. He began to neglect his academic work, including a Law of Democracy course. The grade for the course was almost solely based on a thirty-page research paper due at the end of the semester. The syllabus for the course stated that plagiarism would result in a failing grade.
Mr. Nichols submitted a final paper. The professor used an anti-plagiarism software program to check student papers. The report revealed that Mr. Nichols' final paper contained extensive language copied verbatim or nearly verbatim from four published law review articles, without citations. The repetition and nature of the matches led the professor to conclude that this could not have been coincidental. Mr. Nichols did not credit, in any form, the four law review articles from which he obtained the passages. The professor concluded that large portions of Mr. Nichols' final paper were plagiarized.
He admitted the misconduct when confronted
As a sanction, Mr. Nichols received a failing grade on the paper and in the course. The UW-Madison Dean of Students' Office also reviewed the matter and imposed an additional sanction, requiring Mr. Nichols to take an on-line course on academic integrity and research methods. Mr. Nichols did so, and passed the exam.
In the spring of 2015, his final year, Mr. Nichols failed his required Professional Responsibility course because he failed to comply with the attendance policy; a student who received more than three unexcused absences would fail the course. Mr. Nichols retook the course and graduated from law school in December 2015.
He then sought admission based on diploma privilege but the Board
The Board serves the critically important role as a gatekeeper to admission to the bar. The Board was right to be deeply concerned by Mr. Nichols' record. Still, as in Jarrett, this court has reviewed this record and has opted to afford this applicant the benefit of the doubt. We conclude that Mr. Nichols can be admitted to the practice of law, subject to the imposition of certain conditions. In reaching this conclusion we are influenced by the fact that employers who work closely with Mr. Nichols speak highly of him as an individual, and of his work ethic. The omissions on his bar application were careless, but the items omitted do not, themselves, reflect poorly on Mr. Nichols' character. We are also influenced by the fact that the professor of the class in which Mr. Nichols committed academic misconduct supports his admission to the bar. The professor noted that Mr. Nichols had been "forthright in acknowledging his errors and accepting responsibility," and that he seems genuinely contrite. The professor noted further that Mr. Nichols "has paid a real price for his actions, with an F on his transcript and his misconduct made the admission process vastly more time consuming, expensive, and stressful."
we direct the Board to certify Mr. Nichols' admission to practice law in Wisconsin. Mr. Nichols' admission to the practice of law in Wisconsin is contingent on his compliance with certain requirements set forth in this decision as well as certain conditions on his license to practice law.
We direct the Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) to identify and appoint a practice monitor to serve as a mentor to Mr. Nichols and to supervise and oversee Mr. Nichols' practice of law and related professional activities for a period of two years following the practice monitor's appointment. The practice monitor shall be licensed to practice law in Wisconsin and be located in the region of Mr. Nichols' place of employment or residence.
Source: Professional Legal Blog