Law Schools, Legal Ethics, Minority Issues, Racism, UVA Law

Is Johnathan Perkins, aka the UVA Law Fabulist, Going to Graduate?

Johnathan Perkins

Today is Commencement at UVA Law School. Congratulations to all of the UVA students who will soon become UVA alumni. You’ve worked hard for your law degrees, and you deserve commendation.

(Hopefully you have jobs lined up. Or at least other talents that can help you make a living — and pay back your student loans.)

Is Johnathan Perkins, the 3L who famously (or infamously) admitted making up a story about how he was racially profiled and harassed by university police, going to receive a J.D. degree from UVA Law — today, or in the future?

Let’s discuss. We have some evidence….

Several UVA sources sent us this list (PDF), Candidates for the J.D. Degree – May 22, 2011. If you look for Johnathan Perkins’s name, you will look in vain.

Some interpreted this as a sign that Perkins isn’t graduating:

  • “Here is the degree candidate list for UVA. Apparently Perkins didn’t make it.”
  • “.PDF of UVA Law degree candidates is attached, Johnathan Perkins name is not listed. Guess the school is taking the fake police story seriously after all.”

But there was some dissent. Here’s what another UVA source said:

FYI, Perkins wasn’t on the list of degree candidates released today. So:

1) The list is simply those actually participating, and he’s not because he chose not to or was told not to (as a result of honor committee? out of respect for the other graduates?); or

2) He’s not getting a degree.

Citing the email that accompanied the list (reprinted in full below), I pushed back a bit on this interpretation:

The list is entitled “Candidates for the J.D. Degree.” It should therefore include everyone upon whom a degree will be conferred, whether or not they participate in the ceremony.

Also, note this language from the cover memo: “Graduates who do not participate in Commencement on Sunday should contact the University Registrar’s Office on Monday about receiving their diplomas.”

This seems to envision some degree candidates not participating in the Commencement ceremony. But everyone who is eligible for the J.D. should be on the list, it seems to me. Am I missing something?

The source responded:

That’s one reading of it, that he is not receiving a degree at all. But, as per [Dean Paul] Mahoney’s statement, his degree may simply be being withheld pending the outcome of the Honor investigation — thus he’s not a candidate right now for purposes of Sunday. The list is candidates approved by the law faculty, and he may simply not be approved at this time pending an investigation.

So, my reading of it all is that an honor investigation is confirmed. Whether it has actually been completed and adjudicated is unclear. If it hasn’t been completed, I guess it would stand to reason that he could be awarded a degree at a later date pending a favorable outcome. Either way, the faculty clearly wasn’t comfortable including him in the ceremony at this time, but this doesn’t confirm yet that he has been expelled or will never graduate, at least to the best of my understanding.

To refresh your recollection, here is Dean Mahoney’s statement, in pertinent part (or read it in full over here):

The Honor System is student-run and confidential, and of course includes procedural protections for the accused. There will be no public statement of the existence of an Honor investigation (or any other disciplinary proceeding) unless the subject of the investigation chooses to make one. In the event that an Honor proceeding or other disciplinary action is unresolved at the time of graduation, the subject is typically permitted to participate in the ceremony but does not actually receive a degree pending the outcome of the proceeding.


In an attempt to resolve the ambiguity, I made several inquiries into Perkins’s status. I reached out to a law school spokesperson, the outgoing Chairman of the Honor Committee, and Perkins himself. The outgoing Honor Committee chairman declined to comment, citing the confidentiality of the Committee’s work; Perkins did not get back to me.

The law school spokesperson declined to comment on Perkins specifically. I did ask, however, whether she could confirm the accuracy of the list of degree candidates, which I attached to my email. She responded: “The list is accurate. We have no further comment.”

We’re betting that Perkins will not appear at the UVA Law commencement ceremonies; his presence would be awkward, to say the least. But his absence from Grounds today would not be conclusive as to his degree status, since participation in the ceremonies is not required. As noted in the registrar’s email, “Graduates who do not participate in Commencement on Sunday should contact the University Registrar’s Office on Monday about receiving their diplomas.”

If you have concrete information about whether Perkins might receive a UVA Law degree, whether today or at some point in the future, please email us, subject line “Johnathan Perkins,” or text us, 646-820-8477 (646-820-TIPS). Thanks.

Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of Johnathan Perkins


From: Registrar’s Office
Date: Tue, May 17, 2011 at 1:53 PM
Subject: Spring Grades for May Degree Candidates
To: Law Students3

Now that exams are over and you are enjoying beach week or some other leisure activity, I wanted to update you on the grading calendar and procedures.

Instructors must submit “preliminary grades” for May degree candidates by 10 a.m. this Thursday, May 19th, so we can confirm graduation. On Friday morning, the Law faculty will approve the degree list. Late Friday afternoon, the President and others approve the list. Once approved, we will post the list of degree candidates in the windows outside the Student Records Office and on LawWeb – typically this is done by about 4:30 p.m. on Friday. In the unlikely event that someone has a graduation issue, I will contact them via e-mail on Friday afternoon. Graduates who do not participate in Commencement on Sunday, should contact the University Registrar’s Office on Monday about receiving their diplomas.

All final spring grades are due no later than Wednesday, June 15th. The Student Records Office processes grades as received and, typically, grades are posted on SIS within 2-3 working days after grades are received. A few days after June 15th, degrees will be posted on transcripts for students who have received all their grades. You can monitor this process on SIS by viewing your unofficial transcript. Once your degree is posted, you are responsible for forwarding transcripts to bars, employers or whomever may require one.

Best wishes for memorable Commencement.

Cary Bennett

(hidden for your protection)

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