Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Bar Exam Application Denied for Student Caught Cheating on Law School Test

A 2017 Capital University Law School graduate was caught cheating on a test and denied it during her bar admission process. The Ohio Supreme Court today blocked the graduate from taking the state bar exam until 2021 or later.

In a per curiam opinion, the Supreme Court unanimously concluded the Launica E. Jones did not possess “the requisite character, fitness, and moral qualifications to practice law in this state.” The Court accepted the findings of the Board of Commissioners on Character and Fitness, which investigated Jones and determined that she engaged in a pattern of deceit during the bar admission process.

Student Caught Cheating on Take-Home Test
Jones registered as a candidate to take the February and July 2017 bar exams. During a class in the summer of 2016, the professor distributed a take-home exam and gave the students five days to complete it. The test was open book, but came with instructions that students could not consult with any other individual about the exam.

Jones began working on the test the day it was due and exchanged text messages with a classmate, LaKia N. Baldwin. Jones said that Baldwin asked her for information to answer one of the exam questions early in the day and that she provided it to Baldwin. Jones asserted that the information she provided was in the course textbook, which Baldwin did not have.

At about 4:30 p.m., a half hour before the exam was due, Jones experienced computer problems and lost her exam answers. She said her computer was usable 10 minutes later and that she was able to quickly cobble together her answers for 11 of the 14 exam questions.

Jones asked Baldwin for help for the remaining three questions, and she submitted her answers moments before the deadline.

School Accuses Student of Honor-Code Violation
Based on the similarities of the three answers submitted by Jones and Baldwin — including identical typographical errors — the law school started an honor-code investigation. Jones denied her misconduct when first confronted. An honor-code committee found the two cheated on the exam, and Jones appealed the decision, but lost.

Jones disclosed the existence of an honor-code proceeding on both her bar exam applications and in her December 2016 interview with a Columbus Bar Association admissions committee. However, she maintained that she had not cheated on the test.

Board Examines Cheating Claim
The bar association admissions committee approved Jones’ character and fitness, but the Court’s character and fitness board initiated its own investigation. The board noted that Jones finally admitted her wrongdoing during a prehearing telephone conference.

The board concluded that Jones cheated twice on the exam and engaged in a pattern of deceit that spanned the school’s investigation and most of the bar-admission process. The board recommended the Supreme Court deny her 2017 bar exam applications and permit her to reapply for the February 2021 exam.

The Court agreed with the board’s conclusion, and ruled that Jones can reapply for the February 2021 bar exam by filing new applications to register as a candidate for admission and to take the test. She will be required to undergo a “complete character-and-fitness investigation, including an investigation and report by the National Conference of Bar Examiners,” the Court concluded.

2018-0498. In re Application of Jones, Slip Opinion No. 2018-Ohio-4287.

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