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Due Process Problems with Campus Adjudication of the Wrongly Accused
- Case Results
- List of Schools
Here are some representative results we’ve achieved for our clients.
Female complainant’s rights, health, and safety protected throughout lengthy proceedings
Our client was sexually assaulted by a male student acquaintance. We became involved to support our client in getting proper medical treatment, preserving and collecting evidence and witness testimony, and securing therapeutic support. We helped her understand and navigate the many complex options available to her, including a criminal complaint, an informal complaint process, a formal complaint process, or doing nothing. We guided her through the informal process and then the formal process, including interviews with various school and law enforcement officials, and worked closely with the school to put in place appropriate accommodations ensuring that all interviews and hearings did not retraumatize her. The male student was found responsible and was expelled.
Large private university
Witness to sexual violence protected from intimidation
We represented a female witness to a dating violence case on campus who was being pressured to speak with the police and the school investigators about a violent matter she had witnessed on her dorm floor. We immediately communicated on her behalf to the local police, school administrators, and the Title IX investigators to protect her right to choose to not testify and ensure her safety on campus. She was very relieved not to be pressured by the school, the title IX office or the police to attend the hearing and testify about fellow students.
Small private college
Investigation of sexual assault complaint concludes with no charges filed
Our client contacted us immediately upon receiving notice by his school that a claim of sexual assault was made against him by a female student. We assisted him in preparing his detailed answer to the complaint, and then prepared him and accompanied him to his interview with the campus safety police officers. We worked with the school Title IX administrators and helped our client find evidence to show inconsistencies with the complaint. The complainant withdrew her complaint when presented with these inconsistencies and then recanted. The investigation ended and our client was not charged with anything.
Midsized private collegeSee More Case Results
I was introduced to Attorney Duffy by my criminal defense attorney because I was fighting both a criminal charge and a conduct code violations charge. Felice's office responded right away and she and I met by Zoom video. She and her team were respectful, professional and super knowledgeable. They made everything clear and easily understandable. They knew exactly what questions to ask the school officials to get them to focus on the facts that supported my case. I was incredibly well prepared. I knew what I was going to say before I went in to my interviews and how to react to the many questions that would have tripped me up. I got probation, which was definitely the best possible outcome and I couldn’t have gotten that without Attorney Duffy’s help.
“When your kid is accused of a serious conduct code violation at his college, you quickly learn that there’s a whole different set of rules in place than in the real world. There are no legal standards, no assurances of a “fair trial.” You're presumed guilty and you have to backtrack and prove why you’re NOT guilty. We pretty quickly realized that we needed strong legal representation and guidance. Our son was completely falsely accused and we were ready to dig in to clear his name.
Felice's truly unique background and deep experience with navigating the school’s process was amazing. She made it clear that our son was the client, not us (his parents). She worked with him extensively and earned his total trust. He felt empowered that he had the right person in his corner to defend him. Felice gave our whole family a sense a calm and confidence.
Thanks to incredibly hard work by Felice and her team, our son was found “not responsible” (meaning innocent of any wrongdoing). The outcome was everything we could have hoped for.
I have already recommended Felice to a friend who’s son was caught up in a serious, very complicated conduct code charge, and I will continue to recommend her to any student or parent without reservation.”
Parent of a private college senior
“I selected the firm after doing extensive research trying to locate an attorney that specializes in sexual assault cases on university campuses. Late one night I emailed her for a consult just to see what she had to say. By 6:30am the next morning she had already emailed me back leaving her information for me to call her. I was impressed by her promptness and early morning response. Our criminal attorney informed our family that this simply wasn’t his specialty and strongly recommended we hire someone who really understood how university disciplinary systems work.
In our culture, we are not often trusting and it took a huge step of faith to consider someone we didn’t know (much less one from out of state) to defend our son.
Based on her collegiate athletic background I felt that she would have a better understanding of our case as our son is a D1 athlete. Based on that and her professional accomplishments I felt like she was driven and determined and she clearly had the ability to understand the laws associated with Title IX.
Bottom line is that our son was found 100% not responsible (meaning not guilty) of the extremely serious charges that were brought against him by a female student.
Felice Duffy and her team were professional, focused, responsive and did a great job throughout the entire stressful ordeal. When we think about how badly and unfairly our son might have been treated by the school, we truly count our blessings that we found Ms. Duffy.”
Parent of a College Sophomore, OhioSee More Client Testimonials
Schools Where We've Handled Cases
Here are just some of the schools where we’ve represented students, faculty, coaches, and staff:
- Amherst College
- Arkansas State University
- Bowling Green State University
- Charter Oak State College
- Colgate University
- College of the Holy Cross
- Columbia University
- Connecticut College
- Dartmouth College
- Fairfield University
- Flagler College
- Florida State University
- Guilford College
- Howard University
- Illinois Institute of Technology
- Indiana University
- Lesley University
- Marist College
- Marquette University
- Miami University
- Mississippi University
- Pennsylvania State University
- Plymouth State University
- Quinnipiac University
- Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
- Rice University
- Sacred Heart University
- South Carolina State University
- St. John's University
- St. Lawrence University
- Syracuse University
- Swarthmore College
- Tallahassee Comm. College
- Touro University
- Trinity College
- Tufts University
- University of Connecticut
- University of Kansas
- University of Mass. Med. School
- University of Miami
- University of Missouri
- University of Northern Colorado
- University of Texas
- University of Virginia
- University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee
- Utah University School of Medicine
- Vassar College
- Virginia Wesleyan University
- Washington University, St. Louis
- Wesleyan University
- Westfield State University
- Western Washington University
- Wheaton College
- Yale University
On April 4, 2011, the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) of the Department of Education (DOE) issued a new Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) outlining the procedures that institutions should follow to remain in compliance with Title IX, the federal statute that prohibits sex discrimination in education.
Under the DCL, schools are required to develop and distribute policies regarding sexual harassment, designate a Title IX coordinator to oversee the school’s duties, train staff and students in sexual harassment and violence issues, and establish an investigation procedure and an adjudication process. Many argue that the manner in which the letter is written impairs the procedural due process rights of those students accused of sexual harassment and sexual violence, therefore calling into question the basic fairness of the disciplinary proceedings.
Further, the OCR articulated a “prompt and effective” standard for addressing notice of sexual misconduct on campuses. The general standard to be applied is a 30 to 60 day time frame to meet the promptness requirement, not just for the investigation phase of the process, but for the entire process from notice through to the final determination of any appeals and the implementation of any sanctions and remedial actions.
When a school delays their investigation and resolution processes beyond the sixty-day requirement, they are failing to adequately meet the mandated elements as set forth by the OCR for compliance with Title IX. In their efforts to comply with Title IX and to avoid suspension of federal funding, schools face pressure to find the accused guilty of sexual assault with utter disregard for the accused student’s fundamental due process rights.
Requests to Protect the Accused Student’s Fundamental Due Process Rights
Since the 2011 issuance of the DCL, there have been numerous requests from lawmakers, law professors and others calling for colleges to restore due process in the adjudication of sexual assault cases including:
- In January 2016, the Independent Women’s Forum released a policy paper, “Title IX and Freedom of Speech on College Campuses,” which deplores how colleges that adhere to “basic concepts of due process and innocence until proven guilty” could be found to be in violation of the Title lX  Publication of the IWF is the most recent in a long list of lawmakers and law professors that have issued statements calling for colleges to restore due process in the adjudication of sexual assault cases.
- On January 11, 2016, Democratic candidate and Senator Bernie Sanders called for the referral of campus sexual assault cases to the criminal justice system, which embodies an array of due process protections.
- Republican candidate and Senator Marco Rubio recently issued a statement noting that false allegations of sexual assault “can destroy lives…Certainly, we should make additional efforts to protect due process on campus.”
- On January 15, 2016, a federal court in Kentucky ruled that a campus sexual assault hearing should be regarded as a “proceeding…akin to a criminal prosecution,” and held that states should ensure that adjudicatory procedures are fair.
- In October 2015, California, governor Jerry Brown vetoed a bill last fall that would have established a mandatory minimum punishment for students found responsible of rape or sexual assault. “College campuses must deal with sexual assault fairly and with clear standards of process.”
- On October 2, 2014, a group of 20 attorneys from across the country with experience handling sexual assault cases sent a letter on to the co-sponsors of the Senate’s campus sexual assault bill. The attorneys, who have all represented students accused of sexual assault who are now suing their universities for lack of due process, wrote that while sexual assault needs to be addressed, the rights of the accused need to be preserved. Citing the Campus Accountability and Safety Act the letter provides:
“We are concerned that the complexity of the problem and the momentum to find a solution to the manner in which colleges handle these matters will overwhelm any effort to ensure fair treatment to and protect the rights of the accused — particularly with respect to due process, impartiality and the collection of evidence.”
“By presuming that all accusers are in fact ‘victims’ prior to any investigation or adjudication, the proposed legislation does a grave disservice to those accused of serious sexual offenses by ignoring a concept at the core of due process, innocent until proven guilty.”
The attorneys remind the Senators that those accused of sexual assault “face potentially life-altering consequences from an adverse decision by their schools.” Therefore, colleges and universities have a duty to ensure that accusers and the accused are “treated fairly and equitably.”
- In October of 2014, 28 Harvard law professors issued a statement that echoed the concerns of the 22 attorneys, which statement was published in the Boston Globe protesting new university-wide procedures for adjudicating accusations of sexual harassment and sexual violence. While stressing their commitment to protecting students, the law professors observed that “Harvard has adopted procedures for deciding cases of alleged sexual misconduct which lack the most basic elements of fairness and due process” and “are overwhelmingly stacked against the accused.”
The law professors highlighted “the absence of any adequate opportunity to discover the facts charged and to confront witnesses and present a defense at an adversary hearing,” and “the failure to ensure adequate representation for the accused, particularly for students unable to afford representation.” In addition, the Harvard legal scholars objected to “the lodging of the functions of investigation, prosecution, fact-finding, and appellate review in one office and the fact that that office is itself a Title IX compliance office whose principle task is to root out discrimination against women rather than an entity that could be considered structurally impartial.”
Call an Experienced Due Process Lawyer to Protect the Due Process of the Wrongfully Accused
There are devastating, deep and long-lasting impacts on those wrongly accused of sexual assault who are denied fair and equitable treatment by their colleges in investigating and adjudicating alleged sexual misconduct. If you or someone that you know is wrongfully accused, it is imperative that you speak to an attorney who is familiar with Title IX and the lack of due process afforded to the accused as soon as possible. Our highly experienced Title IX and Conduct Code attorneys are available to review all of the specifics associated with your case on an immediate basis in order to protect your rights. Call the knowledgeable attorneys at Duffy Law today at 203-946-2000.