NEW YORK, Dec 30 (Reuters) - In an unusual ruling, a woman
found guilty of cheating on the New York bar exam has lost a
battle to overturn a finding of misconduct.
The New York State Board of Law Examiners, which
administers the bar exam, charged Rose DeWitt with violating
its misconduct rule by "copying, or seeking to copy another
candidate's answers to multiple choice questions" during both
days she sat for the exam in July 2009.
Following a hearing, the board upheld the charges and
nullified DeWitt's exam results. DeWitt appealed, arguing that
the determination wasn't supported by substantial evidence.
The Appellate Division, Third Department, disagreed.
"Here, a proctor testified that she observed petitioner
repeatedly craning her neck to look at the exam of the
candidate seated next to her during the multiple choice session
on the first day of the exam. The same proctor and her three
supervisors all testified that they observed petitioner doing
the same thing on the second day," wrote Justice Robert Rose in
the ruling issued Thursday.
The board also provided "expert proof of strong statistical
evidence" that DeWitt copied answers from another candidate,
The appeal marks the first time the Board of Law Examiners
has been sued by a candidate accused of cheating, said John
McAlary, executive director of the board.
The board investigates up to 150 allegations of misconduct
among 15,000 exam takers each year, said McAlary. Typically the
Board brings charges against about two dozen candidates-- fewer
than half of which are found guilty of cheating, he said.
But it is rare that cases involving cheating on the bar
exam become public, said Michael Frisch, professor of law at
Georgetown University Law Center and the school's ethics
counsel. Instances of alleged misconduct are kept confidential
by bar exam administrators in New York and other states unless
a candidate appeals, he said.
Some cases involving cheating have become public after they
landed in court. In 2007, the Washington D.C. Court of Appeals
found one man guilty of cheating on the bar exam by reading
from notes in the men's room before flushing them down the
toilet. That same year, the Ohio Supreme Court concluded that
Rahshann Blackwell-- the son of a former Ohio secretary of
state -- wrote in his exam booklet after time had been called
in both 2003 and 2005.
A HANDFUL 'PANIC'
And in 1985, a three-judge panel found Minnesota Supreme
Court Associate Justice John Todd guilty of cheating on a
multi-state bar exam two years earlier. Todd subsequently
If someone is found guilty of cheating on the bar, their
chances of being able to meet a state bar's character and
fitness requirements-- and ultimately practice law-- are slim,
"In my view the majority of individuals sitting the exam
are honest and hard-working, and take the profession
seriously," said McAlary. "Unfortunately, each year a handful
who don't know the material panic and their eyes wander."
DeWitt's attorney, Albany-based Daniel Tucinski of
Tuczinski, Cavalier, Gilchrist & Collura, did not return
messages seeking comment.
The case is In the Matter of Rose Dewitt, in the Supreme
Court for the State of New York, Appellate Division, Third
For Dewitt: Daniel Tucinski of Tuczinski, Cavalier,
Gilchrist & Collura.
For the board: Assistant Attorney General Robert M.
(Reporting by Moira Herbst)
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