BEFORE THE HEARING BOARD
OF THE
ILLINOIS ATTORNEY REGISTRATION
AND
DISCIPLINARY COMMISSION

In the Matter of:

TANIA ANDREA McCANTS,

Attorney-Respondent, 

No. 6299449.

 

Commission No. 2012PR00144

FILED - November 2, 2012

COMPLAINT

Jerome Larkin, Administrator of the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, by his attorney, Wendy J. Muchman, pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 753(b), complains of Respondent Tania Andrea McCants, who was licensed to practice law in Illinois on November 17, 2009, and alleges that Respondent has engaged in the following conduct which tends to defeat the administration of justice or to bring the courts or the legal profession into disrepute, and which subjects Respondent to discipline pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 770, and which subjects Respondent to discipline pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 770:

COUNT I
Plagiarism While Enrolled in John Marshall Law School LLM Program

1. In the Spring of 2009, Respondent graduated from John Marshall Law School (hereinafter "JMLS") and obtained her juris doctor degree. Respondent entered the JMLS LLM program in the Fall of 2009 as a candidate for an LLM in international business and trade law.

2. At all times as alleged in this complaint, JMLS had a Student Handbook and a student Code of Conduct. Section 24 of the JMLS Student Code of Conduct relates to "Academic Honesty," and provides in part that it is "a violation of the student code to engage in plagiarism as defined and explained in the Student Handbook." The Student Handbook defines plagiarism as follows:

B. Plagiarism
Plagiarism is an extremely serious offense that may result in disciplinary action. There are two major types of plagiarism:
1. Failure to cite the source of an idea; and
2. Failure to use quotation marks around a direct quote.

b. Use of the same words. If you use the idea and the words of another author, you must put quotation marks around those words and cite to the source. Both are required. If either the quotation marks or the citation is missing, you have plagiarized the other author's work.
Intent is not required for a writing to be plagiarized.
Using the ideas or words of another student may also be plagiarism.
Regardless of what rules you may have followed on this subject before law school, or what practices you may observe elsewhere, this is the standard that you must adhere to in all of your Lawyering Skills classes, in all seminar papers, and in all honors programs.
John Marshall Law School Student Handbook Section XVI.

3. During the 2009 Fall semester Respondent enrolled in a course, International Employment Law, in furtherance of her LLM degree. On December 1, 2009, Respondent submitted to her professor for her final grade a paper entitled, "The North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation and its Affect (sic) on Labor Practices." Exhibit 1 is a copy of Respondent's final paper.

4. In the final paper, Respondent copied verbatim from two source materials without any quotation marks or proper attribution. Exhibit 2 is a copy of the materials from which Respondent copied verbatim in the following places:

  1. Pages 2-4 and 6 paragraphs circled and marked "A, B, C E and F" were taken verbatim from http://naalc.org/ index.cfm? page= 627:NAALC Commission for Labor Cooperation; and

  2. Pages 4-5, paragraph circled and marked "D" was taken directly from http://www.naalc.org/index.cfm?page=228, Commission for Labor Cooperation.

5. Respondent's professor gave her an "incomplete" as her grade in the class because of his concerns that Respondent had plagiarized sections of her paper. On January 8, 2010, Respondent's professor communicated with her via email and explained the incomplete grade and his concerns about her paper. Respondent's professor emailed as follows:

…I gave you an incomplete in the course…because I wondered whether perhaps you might have borrowed/plagiarized some sections of your paper--?

See my attached mark up of your paper, specifically the chunks of text I circled and lettered (A-F), followed by identical A-F passages in other [uncited] sources (these other sources appear at the end of the paper).

Pls. explain those A-F sections.

Also, I have not circled for you any borrowings/plagiarism in the final 5 pages of the paper. I hope you will tell me what, in the final 5 pages of the paper, was lifted from other sources. Pls. go through the final 5 pages yourself and show me every lifted passage.

Thanks very much.

6. On January 8, 2010, Respondent answered her professor's email as follows:

…I looked through what you put at the end and that's not where I got my information. As there are many articles on the NALC, and his case, I was able to get information from many different sources. As I learned with writing papers, you need to cite everything which was used, which I did, and plagiarism happens when this is not done, so every piece of information I used to describe the case, and the NALC was cited. But, I'll go back over and look.

If I'm wrong about the definition of what plagiarism is, then I've done a lot of papers incorrectly. I'll go through the paper, like I said, I just got back into town, so I'll need a few more days. Thank you.

7. On January 8, 2010, Respondent's professor answered her email and explained that in addition to citation, plagiarism also has to do with failure to use quotation marks on verbatim material.

8. Subsequently, Respondent made edits to her paper and received a B- in the course.

9. In the Spring semester of 2011, Respondent enrolled in Professor Tania Moore's course, Tax and Employee Benefits Research. In an introductory power point presentation, Professor Moore devoted over nine pages to an explanation of what constitutes plagiarism and various examples of proper citation format.

10. Due to health issues, at the end of the Spring semester, Respondent received an incomplete in the Tax and Employee Benefits Research course, and received an extension of time into the Summer to complete her final paper.

11. At some point in the Summer of 2011, Respondent submitted her final paper entitled "Abusive Tax Avoidance by S ESOPs," to Professor Moore. (See Exhibit 3, Respondent's final paper in the Tax and Employee Benefit course.) The paper contained both uncredited sources and uncredited research. Respondent did not cite at all to an authority used in her paper, Knoll, Michael, "Samuel Zell, the Advantages and Disadvantages of S ESOPs," Ohio State Law Journal, Vol. 70:03,pp.519 et seq. (2009). Respondent used the research from Professor Knoll's article making it seem as if it was her own. In addition Respondent failed to quote verbatim excerpts from the Tax Code and remarks made by J. Michael Keeling, president of the ESOP Association, on June 2, 2008. See attached Exhibit 4, Professor Knoll's law review article, BNA 2012 Tax Management materials (Il. B.7, A-34) and Excerpts from remarks of J. Michael Keeling president of the ESOP Association on June 2, 2008.

12. On September 26, 2011, in his capacity as Chair of the Student Discipline Committee (hereinafter "SDC,"), Professor John Gorby of JMLS communicated via email with Respondent that he had been referred a complaint by Associate Dean Ralph Ruebner, alleging that Respondent violated JMLS rules regarding plagiarism in her research course on employee benefits. Professor Gorby further explained to Respondent that it was his responsibility to "conduct research and make a determination if ‘reasonable cause' of a violation exists or if it does not exist and if so, to bring the case before a hearing panel composed of two faculty members and one student member of the SDC for a finding of guilt or non-guilt." Professor Gorby advised Respondent that she could retain counsel to assist her in the matter. As of September 26, 2011, Respondent was aware that her conduct regarding the alleged plagiarism was under investigation.

13. On September 28, 2011 in response to Respondent's offer to meet with him, Professor Gorby sent Respondent an email suggesting it would be to her benefit to retain counsel. On September 29, 2011, Respondent advised Professor Gorby that Brendan Shiller would represent her in the JMLS SDC matter.

14. On November 14, 2011, a reasonable cause determination was made by the SDC regarding the complaint of the Associate Dean of JMLS against Respondent, a graduate student, for plagiarism. As of November 14, 2011, Respondent was aware that a formal proceeding had been initiated against her for plagiarism by the SDC of JMLS.

15. At some point between November 14, 2011 and November 18, 2011, Respondent attempted to withdraw from the JMLS LLM program. Professor John Gorby emailed Mr. Shiller that Respondent would not be allowed to withdraw from JMLS because following "a determination of ‘reasonable cause', the School's disciplinary process [was] ongoing, leading to an admission of the charges, a plea of no contest (nolo contendre) or a presentation to a hearing panel of the SDC."

16. Between November 18 and November 29, 2011, Mr. Shiller and Professor Gorby communicated further regarding Respondent's previously-expressed desire to withdraw from JMLS before a finding of reasonable cause, and her possible desire to re-enroll in the JMLS LLM program in the future. Professor Gorby told Mr. Shiller that neither option was possible.

17. On November 29, 2011, Respondent submitted her application to DePaul University College of Law LLM program.

18. On December 8, 2011, Respondent was admitted to the DePaul University LLM program. On December 15, 2011, Respondent accepted the seat in the DePaul LLM program and forwarded her course registration forms to DePaul. In January 2012, Respondent commenced her coursework in the DePaul LLM program.

19. On February 9, 2012, Respondent pled no contest before JMLS SDC to the finding of reasonable cause that she committed an act of plagiarism.

20. On February 20, 2012 the JMLS SDC Hearing Panelists were provided with the materials related to Respondent's alleged plagiarism. On February 29, 2012, the JMLS SDC Hearing Panel determined by clear and convincing evidence that Respondent's paper entitled "Abusive Tax Avoidance by S ESOPs," submitted to Professor Moore as Respondent's final paper in the Tax and Employee Benefit course "was submitted in violation of the JMLS Plagiarism Rule as set forth in the JMLS Student Handbook, ‘Student Code of Conduct' and that it was plagiarism."

21. Respondent was dismissed from the JMLS graduate program and given an incomplete for all courses in which she was enrolled in fall 2011.

22. By reason of the conduct described above, Respondent has engaged in the following misconduct:

  1. conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation in violation of Rule 8.4(c) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010); and

  2. conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of in violation of Rule 8.4(d) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010).

COUNT II
Dishonesty in Application to DePaul Law School LLM Program

23. The Administrator's realleges paragraphs one through twenty-two in Count I above.

24. Respondent's November 29, 2011 application to DePaul University College of Law LLM program had the following language above the line for her signature:

By signing this application, I understand that I have an obligation to update the information that I provided in this application from the time I submit this application until the time that I graduate from the College of Law. I further understand and agree that any omission, misrepresentation, concealment or failure to update an significant fact in any statement may be considered sufficient reason for denial of this application, revocation of admission or expulsion.

The application also contained the following questions:

"Have you ever been dropped, dismissed, suspended, placed on probation, disciplined, or expelled from any school, college or similar institution for academic of any other reason?"

Respondent checked the box that stated "Yes."

"Were you accused of any dishonesty therewith?"

Respondent checked the box that stated "No."

25. Respondent was asked to explain her answer "Yes." As her explanation, she provided a paragraph that described her academic probation and subsequent suspension from her undergraduate college, Northwestern University.

26. At no point in her application to DePaul University Law School's LLM program did Respondent advise DePaul of the November 14, 2011 finding of reasonable cause pending against her at SDC of JMLS regarding her plagiarism. At no time between November 29, 2011 and October 25, 2012, the date this complaint was voted, did Respondent advise DePaul that she had been found by the SDC of JMLS to have committed a violation of the Student Code of Conduct, specifically plagiarism.

27. Respondent's answers to the questions on the DePaul application set forth in paragraphs twenty-four and twenty-five above, her failure to advise DePaul of the November 14, 2011 finding of reasonable cause, and her subsequent failure to update DePaul about the JMLS SDC's finding of plagiarism were false and misleading, and Respondent knew they were false and misleading because Respondent knew of the pending JMLS SDC determination of reasonable cause and the subsequent plagiarism finding.

28. Respondent failed to advise DePaul of the initial JMLS SDC findings to improve her chances of securing admission to DePaul. Respondent knew she had an obligation to update her information with DePaul University and failed to comply with that obligation, and failed to update DePaul about the JMLS SDC finding of plagiarism in order to keep her position and avoid the consequences of the expulsion or dismissal from DePaul.

29. By reason of the conduct described above, Respondent has engaged in the following misconduct:

  1. conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation in violation of Rule 8.4(c) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010); and

  2. conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice in violation of Rule 8.4(d) of the Illinois Code of Professional Conduct.

COUNT III
Making a False Statement of Material Fact in Connection with a
Disciplinary Investigation

30. The Administrator's realleges paragraphs one through twenty-nine in Count II above.

31. On November 15, 2011, JMLS reported Respondent's conduct regarding the plagiarism to the ARDC and an investigation was docketed as Tania McCants in relation to Ralph Rubener, 2011IN05273.

32. On November23, 2011, Respondent was asked to submit a response to the information in investigation 2011 IN 05273.

33. On December 8, 2011, Respondent requested and received an extension of time to respond to the investigation until December 30, 2011.

34. On December 23, 2011, Respondent submitted a written response in investigation 2011 IN 05273.

35. On June 21, 2012, Respondent was served with a subpoena requesting she appear for a sworn statement in connection with investigation 2011IN02573.

36. On October 2, 2012, Respondent appeared for her sworn statement in 2011IN2573. At that time she was asked the following questions and she gave the following answers:

Q Is DePaul aware of the issues that arose at John Marshall?

No. It was sent to them, because I was not expelled from John Marshall. Everything was truthful on my application, and whatever grades were sent, if John Marshall attached anything then they would be aware.

Q. So you don't know.

A. I don't know.

Q. But you answered your application and you left that information—

A. No, I answered the application truthfully what they asked. They ask basically on your application, were you expelled? Were you suspended? Anything like that and the truthful answer was no, because I was not.

Q. Do you think this incident at John Marshall is something that DePaul would have been interested in knowing?

A. Based on the application for DePaul, I was honest with everything they asked. I was honest with their application.

37. Respondent's answers to counsel for Administrator's questions set forth in paragraph thirty-five above, were false and Respondent knew they were false because Respondent knew she had not answered the DePaul application truthfully because she had a duty to advise DePaul at the time she completed her application of the finding of reasonable cause by JMLS SDC and she had a duty to update the information to DePaul once she was found to have committed plagiarism at JMLS, and she knew that she had done neither.

38. By reason of the conduct described above, Respondent has engaged in the following misconduct:

  1. knowingly making a false statement of material fact in a disciplinary matter in violation of Rule 8.1(a) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010);

  2. conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation in violation of Rule 8.4(c) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010); and

  3. conduct which is prejudicial to the administration of justice in violation Rule 8.4(d) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010).

WHEREFORE, the Administrator respectfully requests that this matter be assigned to a panel of the Hearing Board, that a hearing be held, and that the panel make findings of fact, conclusions of fact and law, and a recommendation for such discipline as is warranted.

Wendy J. Muchman
Counsel for Administrator
One Prudential Plaza
130 East Randolph Drive, #1500
Chicago, Illinois 60601
Telephone: (312) 565-2600
Respectfully submitted,

Jerome Larkin, Administrator
Attorney Registration and
Disciplinary Commission

By:  Wendy J. Muchman