INSTITUTION’S INTEGRITY JEOPARDIZED BY FALLOUT FROM HONOR CODE CASE
It’s been a rough few years for the Charleston School of Law (CSOL). In fact ever since this website broke open the infamous “Bar Exam Scam” five years ago … things really haven’t been the same for the institution.
For those of you who missed it, the S.C. Supreme Court threw out an entire section of the state’s 2007 bar exam in an effort to artificially inflate the school’s passing percentage … something it probably wishes it could have done again this year when only 40.3 percent of CSOL graduates passed the exam.
Ouch, right? Anyway … in addition to its abysmal academic performance, CSOL is also home to all sorts of drama involving wealthy kids with names like Roy T. Willey IV who belong to secret organizations with names like “The Society of the Gavel.”
No really … we’re not kidding.
But bad grades and petty patricians pale in comparison to the scandal that’s about to blow up at the school.
Earlier this year, lawsuits were filed in state and federal court by a CSOL student named Rachel Hesling (or Rachael Hesling, according to her Facebook page). According to the suit, Helsing was libeled by a former CSOL student named Brielle Hunt – who was described in the suit as having “serious emotional problems.”
“The Plaintiff (Hesling) has been damaged in her reputation, the Plaintiff has had to spend large sums of money in order to protect her position with the school; the Plaintiff has suffered great shock, humiliation and emotional distress,” the state lawsuit alleges, concluding that Hesling “is entitled to judgment against (Hunt) for actual and punitive damages.”
What’s the back story of this case, though?
Specifically, what did Brielle Hunt do to cause such “shock, humiliation and emotional distress?”
And more importantly why is CSOL allegedly trying to get a friendly judge in Charleston to put the kibosh on discovery efforts related to this case?
The truth … assuming it ever comes out … could be devastating to the school.
According to our sources, Hunt and Hesling were friends – or at least they were until Hunt allegedly caught Hesling cheating on a writing assignment last fall. Distraught, Hunt went to the school’s Director of Legal Research, Analysis, and Writing, Todd Bruno for advice.
Bruno is said to have told Hunt that she had no choice but to report Hesling for a violation of CSOL’s honor code – which she did.
Not long thereafter, CSOL’s Honor Council convened to hear the case – and unanimously found Hesling guilty.
“The evidence against (Hesling) was damning,” a source close to the proceedings tells FITS. “There was absolutely no doubt about (her guilt).”
Another source close to the council said that there were “irrefutable indicators” of Hesling’s guilt – including digital evidence of the specific honor code violation itself.
At that point, the council sent the evidence – and its verdict – to CSOL Dean Andy Abrams.
What did he do? Absolutely nothing …
In fact Abrams is said to have sat on the council’s finding for several months – drawing the ire of its members. When these members eventually protested, they were reportedly told by the Dean to “mind their own business.”
It wasn’t until April 20 of this year – when a mass email was sent to the student body from CSOL Honor Council chairman Penn Ely – that the incident involving Hesling was even acknowledged (albeit anonymously).
That’s when it was also revealed that Abrams had reversed the court’s finding and dismissed the charges against Hesling.
“An Honor Council trial was held,” the mass email stated. “The Honor Court found the Accused guilty. The charges were dismissed on appeal due to a substantive procedural error. During that time, the Honor Council amended its Rules, with approval from the administration, to ensure the process is fair to all students with the objective of reaching a just and proper decision.”
Wait … what was the “substantive procedural error?”
No one knows … although since Hesling’s suit was filed CSOL has been aggressively seeking to shield any and all information related to the case.
Obviously one law school student accusing another of cheating isn’t a huge deal – nor is it necessarily a big deal that a guilty verdict of the school’s honor council was overturned on an appeal.
But this particular dispute has now escalated all the way to U.S. District Court – with some of the state’s most influential lawyers involved in the case. And based on the court filings we’ve read, CSOL is doing everything within its power to cover this scandal up. In fact we’re told that the school may even be using its friendly relationship with Judge J.C. “Buddy” Nicholson – a regular guest professor at CSOL – to help keep certain incriminating information under wraps.
FITS is obviously just beginning to investigate this latest – and possibly greatest – CSOL drama. Stay tuned for much, much more …
HESLING v. HUNT (.pdf)