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Law ?rm offers students criminal, Honor Court counsel

Students might soon have the opportunity to hire legal counsel for cases of disciplinary misconduct tried by the honor system — but one law firm already advertises help in some cases.

Chapel Hill’s Everett Law Firm now publicizes legal counsel on its website to students who have criminal cases that are being processed by both court systems.

Scott Eren, an attorney at the firm, said the firm wants to help students with how they present themselves.

“Students can think it is a safe context to try to explain themselves, but the Honor Court can turn that information into the police, and the person is basically self-incriminating themselves,” he said. “There is no privilege of confidence.”

House Bill 843, filed earlier this month, would give students the right to hire a professional lawyer for honor system cases.

Under the current system, students can only be represented by fellow students in cases that appear before the Honor Court.

Students can hire legal counsel when their case is being processed in both the criminal and honor systems simultaneously. But those lawyers can only advise students — they cannot address the panel or speak.

Eren said the bill would help students with their honor system proceedings.

“Sometimes students feel misrepresented by the University, and they want (legal) recourse,” he said. “The bill is designed to help them have an attorney before they get to that serious of a step.”

Anna Sturkey, UNC’s new undergraduate student attorney general, said she thinks students should have the right to counsel if they have a concurrent criminal case.

“It is fine for attorneys to help protect students’ federal rights, though I don’t know how they can help with an honor system case,” she said.

But she said lawyers should not be involved in disciplinary misconduct cases.

“We’re not trying to come up with crafty arguments to get students off for something,” she said. “That is something lawyers would bring because they get paid to do it.

“We are a truth-seeking system, and lawyers don’t respect that,” she added.

Sturkey also said the bill might create inequality among students by allowing counsel to those who can afford it, but not providing public defenders to those who cannot.

Richard Myers, associate dean for student affairs at UNC’s School of Law, said the honor system should only process criminal cases after they have reached a verdict through the N.C. courts system, to avoid any questionable sharing of information.

But he said the bill and expanded legal counsel would overhaul the honor system.

“It would fundamentally alter how the honor system works,” he said. “I suspect the honor system would cease to look like it does now.”

Contact the desk editor at university@dailytarheel.com.

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