Court upholds expulsion of former law student accused of plagiarism

The Los Angeles Superior Court upheld the expulsion of former Gould School of Law student Claudine Tinsman Monday after a trial court granted her a writ of administrative mandamus challenging the University’s 2014 decision. According to the court opinion, Tinsman allegedly hacked another student’s computer to plagiarize documents for a law competition.

In August 2014, Student Judicial Affairs and Community Standards alleged Tinsman violated 11 different Student Conduct Code sections. The allegations said Tinsman submitted material authored by another student as her own and said she attempted to benefit from the work of another student by falsifying documents.

The allegations came after Tinsman entered a law review competition in May 2014 and was accused of plagiarizing Gould student Irina Kirnosova’s “Bluebooking” exercise, which was meant to demonstrate the competition participant’s legal literacy, the opinion read.

Tinsman appealed her expulsion to USC’s Student Behavior Appeals Panel in February 2015, claiming that her January diagnosis of bipolar disorder and psychosis warranted a re-examination of the decision. Tinsman submitted multiple documents to the panel, including letters from physicians and an MRI scan that showed a cyst pressing on her brain.

“I realized that I had committed a grave error,” Tinsman wrote in a letter submitted to the panel, according to the opinion. “But the voices told me it was too late, that I was worthless, and the only way to avoid imprisonment was to continue the cover-up.”

The three-person panel disposed of Tinsman’s appeal. According to the opinion, while the panel did not dispute the evidence submitted, none of it indicated that Tinsman was suffering from a mental illness at the time the violations occurred.

In February 2016, Tinsman filed a petition for a writ of administrative mandamus, which would require the panel to review the new evidence for a second time. The petition was approved, and a court approved the writ in January 2017. The writ named USC, Vice President of Student Affairs Ainsley Carry and Student Judicial Affairs and Community Standards official Donna Turner as defendants. USC did not appeal the writ.

A new three-member panel reviewed the evidence again in February 2017 and upheld Tinsman’s expulsion.

Tinsman appealed for a third time, this time to the California State Appeals Court, which affirmed the panel’s decision to uphold her expulsion in its opinion filed Monday.

In a statement to the Daily Trojan, USC wrote that they were “pleased” with the Court of Appeal’s decision.

“USC takes academic integrity issues very seriously,” the statement read.

Tinsman is currently a doctoral researcher in cybersecurity at the University of Oxford, according to Oxford’s website.