Plaintiff: Nicole Di Lella
Defendants: UDC David A. Clarke School of Law, Associate Dean Ann Bishop Richardson, Educational Specialist Ahmad Reed, Professor Susan Waysdorf, Academic Standards Committee
Damages Sought: Court orders to strike an honor code violation, a suspension, and an F from Di Lella’s record; legal fees; unspecified compensatory and punitive damages
Complaint: Di Lella has learning disabilities. As a law student, she couldn’t take notes reliably, and she typed and retyped material so she could recall it, as she’d done since high school. She claims UDC promised her necessary accommodations that never materialized. When exam time came, Di Lella wasn’t allowed extra time to prepare, and a family emergency took her out of the area in the middle of exams. Because of this, Richardson gave her a three-day extension. The dean changed her mind, though, and told Di Lella to turn in her work immediately. From Buffalo, N.Y., Di Lella e-mailed the file that she thought contained her final exam. When Waysdorf opened the file, what she found was an old exam. Di Lella alleges she had typed it up as a study aid and sent it by mistake. The law school refused to accept her actual work. It suspended her for a year, gave her an F, and included cheating in her permanent record.
Quality of Representation: A-plus for good, thorough attention to detail but a D-minus for boring, obsessive attention to detail. Take this 100-word sentence: “Moreover, when Plaintiff attempted to fend for herself by substituting old exam study aids for notes the UDC School of Law failed to provide as an accommodation, and Plaintiff then mistakenly submitted a computer file containing old exam study aids for a current final exam to which the old exam study aids were clearly neither related nor responsive, defendants refused to accept Plaintiff’s actual and intended original response to the current final exam even though the mistake had been acknowledged by defendants, and defendants added insult to injury by suspending her one year on a fraudulent charge of cheating.”
Summary Judgment: Just grade the damn paper. Di Lella may have worn out her school’s patience. (Her complaint nearly wore out our patience.) And her excuse of sending the wrong file to Waysdorf smacks of dog-ate-my-homework. But because she makes a good case that UDC wrongly withheld the help that it promised her, we’ll give her the benefit of the doubt. Di Lella is hereby awarded damages in the amount of a Franklin Planner and the services of a “life coach” for one year.