Friday, March 14, 2008

Law Professor Suspended For Altering Student Evaluations

In a rare bar discipline case brought against a law professor, the Iowa Supreme Court imposed a suspension of a former University of Iowa law professor who had "raised the scores on two student evaluations and manufactured three highly positive evaluations in order to improve markedly his teaching effectiveness score." The court noted that "[n]ationally recognized scholars had glowingly praised [the professor's] scholarship for its originality, incisiveness, and descriptive power...he is particularly well-known as one of the leading scholars nationally in mental health law. Without question, [he] is an intellectually gifted lawyer."

The professor had been diagnosed in 1990 with bipolar affective disorder and had exhausted his supply of prescribed medication at the time of the misconduct. He also suffers from obstructive sleep apnea and diabetes mellitus. There were times that he "was noncompliant with hospital rules, engaged in conflicts with hospital staff and refused to follow medical advice."

As to the misconduct, he had remained in the room for the evaluations contrary to school policy. He made a speech to the students about the importance of the evaluations and attributed his problems at the law school to faculty jealousy. He and his research assistant took the evaluations.  The conduct was reported by a student to the Associate Dean of Student Affairs. The school administration then conducted a confidential investigation. The evaluations "are a factor in determining who is appointed to faculty chairs at the law school. [He] believed he had been treated badly by the law school because he deserved to be appointed to a faculty chair, but had not yet received one."

The court concluded that "the total picture of [his] behavior on the evening [of the misconduct] suggests intentional, conscious conduct... the asserted pattern of intentional, conscious conduct, interrupted at the key moment by a brief period of unconscious delirium in which the actus reus was performed on five evaluations, seems as improbable to us as it did to [the Board's medical expert]." The court rejected the proposed one-year suspension in favor of an indefinite suspension with no possibility of reinstatement for three months and conditions on reinstatement. (Mike Frisch)

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