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Restorative Justice For College Code Violations

Felice and Cristine standing in suits

Restorative Justice For College Code Violations

  • Case Results
  • Testimonials
  • List of Schools

Case Results

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 college

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Client Testimonials

"I am writing to let any college student who gets accused of something serious by their school know that they need a lawyer like Felice Duffy to defend them.  I was accused of something terrible by a student that I would never do and didn’t do.  Even though I knew exactly what actually happened, I was very scared that my university might not find me innocent. It was terrifying to think that I might lose my full basketball scholarship or could have been suspended or expelled and that me and my family’s name could have gotten a horrible reputation. I can’t even put into words how I excited I was when I got the letter from the school that cleared me completely of the charges against me and I have Felice to thank for that 100%. Since I’m not in Connecticut, Felice and her investigator used video conferencing to interview me and my witnesses, talk with my parents, and get me fully prepared for every meeting I had with my school.  They got all my texts and email that proved my innocence and organized them perfectly for the Dean and the discipline committee. Felice was always very direct and respectful even though the subject matter was very personal, and she was always ahead of the school in terms of getting me and them important information at every step.  It was like having the best scouting report ever." Felice obviously knows her stuff but she also deeply cares.  You can tell that she loves the work she’s doing to help college kids in really difficult situations.

College Sophomre, Colorado

“The claims leveled against me were terrible, but the wonderful news is that I was fully cleared of all the allegations because of the outstanding work Christine Brown and the team at Duffy Law did on my behalf. The first thing that really impressed me was that from the very first call Christine quickly understood what was going on and was able to read between the lines to understand the complicated dynamics of the situation. Despite my entire career being spent in academia, I didn't know much about Title IX procedures. Her expertise and knowledge of the process was immediately apparent and critically helpful in guiding me and giving me as much peace of mind as possible.. Christine knew how to spot the important subtext throughout the process and made sure I understood the strategic options I had at every stage going forward. I felt very confident in the decisions we made together. I felt vindicated by the decision and that this situation will have no further effects on my career. I am very grateful to Christine and Duffy Law for guiding me through this stressful process and recommend them without reservation to any faculty member facing a similarly challenging situation. ”

Assistant Professor in the School of Medicine at a midwest university

“I hired Felice Duffy in the middle of a Title IX sexual assault proceeding. While I had initially retained another attorney on a recommendation, it turns out they did not have much insight to the inner workings of university policy, which I learned is NOT required to follow the basic laws of due process. Felice was absolutely incredible, and as an athlete, she understood my thought process and feelings the entire way. This is what stood out the most to me. At the beginning of my school’s adjudication process, I was an absolute mess. Not only is Felice extremely knowledgeable in law and how school adjudication processes work, but she also really does care about her clients and their well-being. It was initially extremely tough for me to speak about what I was facing. Felice was able to assist me not only in compiling the proper evidence and responding to the school, but also put me in the right state of mind to defend myself and move on with my life after it was all completed. Prior to hiring Duffy Law, I was concerned that I would be relegated to working with a legal assistant or secretary being that my case was in a college setting as opposed to a state court. However, Felice always found a way to make time and was there every step of the way. I feel like an important part of hiring an attorney is being able to trust them to fight for you no matter what the scenario may be and you can rest assured you will be getting that with Duffy Law. I would recommend Felice Duffy of Duffy Law 10 times out of 10 to anyone that may be put in a tough situation like I was”

Female College Freshman, Massachusetts

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Schools Where We've Handled Cases

Here are some of the schools where we’ve represented students, faculty, coaches, and staff:

  • Amherst College
  • Arkansas State University
  • Bard College
  • Belmont Abbey College
  • Bowling Green State University
  • Brandeis University
  • Brown University
  • Charter Oak State College
  • Colgate University
  • College of the Holy Cross
  • Columbia University
  • Connecticut College
  • Creighton Law School
  • Dartmouth College
  • Emmanuel College
  • Fairfield University
  • Flagler College
  • Florida State University
  • Fordham University
  • Furman University
  • George Fox University
  • Guilford College
  • Howard University
  • Illinois Institute of Technology
  • Indiana University
  • Lesley University
  • Louisiana State University
  • Marist College
  • Marquette University
  • Miami University
  • Michigan State 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
  • Texas A/M, College Station
  • Touro University
  • Trinity College
  • Tufts University
  • University of California, Riverside
  • University of Connecticut
  • University of Kansas
  • University of Lynchburg
  • University of Maryland
  • University of Mass. Med. School
  • University of Miami
  • University of Missouri
  • University of Nebraska
  • University of Northern Colorado
  • University of Texas
  • University of Virginia
  • University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee
  • University of Wisconsin, Whitewater
  • Utah University School of Medicine
  • Vassar College
  • Virginia Wesleyan University
  • Washington University, St. Louis
  • Wesleyan University
  • Westfield State University
  • Western Washington University
  • Wheaton College
  • William Smith College
  • Yale University
  • Youngstown State University

Most colleges and universities across the country have codes of conduct in place, with specific outlined procedures when a student is accused of violating the code of conduct. Depending upon the college or university, a code of conduct might also be known as an honor code, or another named document specifying expectations for student behavior and conduct in classrooms and on campus more generally. Many colleges and universities have judicial-like bodies that review violations of the code of conduct in hearings, and these hearings are largely retributive in nature. To be clear, these bodies, panels, or boards—they can have many different titles—are tasked with determining whether or not a student violated the existing code or policy, and then they are typically tasked with issuing an appropriate punishment for the violation. In most cases, a student who is found “guilty” of violating an honor code or a code of conduct will face penalties such as a suspension or even expulsion from the college or university.

While this type of retributive or punitive approach mirrors much of the U.S. justice system more generally, some colleges and universities are beginning to consider the benefits of a restorative justice approach. Rather than employing traditional disciplinary procedures with the aim of punishing the student and deterring other similar behavior from students in the future, a restorative justice approach may be able to promote dialogue, healing, and improved well-being.

What is Restorative Justice?

In order to learn more about the potential for restorative justice solutions as an alternative to traditional disciplinary procedures during conduct code hearings, it is important to understand the basic tenets of a restorative justice approach.

According to the Centre for Justice & Reconciliation, restorative justice might be defined as “a theory of justice that emphasizes repairing the harm caused by criminal behavior,” which is “best accomplished through cooperative processes that allow all willing stakeholders to meet.” Ultimately, according to the Centre, a restorative justice approach “can lead to transformation of people, relationships, and communities.” Generally speaking, restorative justice approaches have three major elements:

  • First, restorative justice approaches must involve an element of repair. Whether a crime or violation occurs in broader society or on a college campus, there must be a recognition that a violation of an existing law or code has caused harm, and that “justice requires repairing that harm.”
  • Second, any restorative justice approach must involve an “encounter” between or among the parties involved. Each encounter may be different and distinct, depending upon the facts of the case. In most situations, a restorative justice approach seeks to have the parties make a decision together about what an encounter could look like. The underlying idea here is that the resolution of a crime or a violation should involve not only the party accused of a violation, but also any party who has been affected.
  • Third, and finally, restorative justice must have an element of transformation, or “fundamental changes in people, relationships, and communities.”

Restorative justice is certainly not a new idea, although it is a relatively new approach for many college and university communities when it comes to code of conduct violations.

How Might Restorative Justice Be Applicable in the Context of College Code Violations?

In the college and university setting, the idea of restorative justice might apply in the following type of scenario: A student is accused of violated the school’s code of conduct for making a racist statement or engaging in sexual misconduct in the form of “unwanted sexual touching.” Rather than the student being suspended or expelled after being found “responsible” (i.e., “guilty”) for the violation, the two parties instead would engage in mediate dialogue and activities—by mutual agreement—that seeks to educate and change behavior in a positive manner, rather than involving a purely punitive response.

Accordingly, colleges and universities that are using a restorative justice approach are largely still retaining their honor code boards or hearing boards that make a decision about a code of conduct violation. However, the restorative justice approach applies instead of a purely punitive reaction to the student being found “responsible” for a violation of the code of conduct. By taking a restorative justice approach, colleges and universities are working to reintegrate the parties into the campus community.

Potential for Restorative Justice Solutions Instead of Traditional Disciplinary Procedures

A number of colleges have developed restorative justice solutions for code of conduct violations, and most of these solutions take a flexible approach. To be sure, restorative justice solutions may have underlying guiding principles, yet the principles usually are applied in different ways depending upon the facts of the case. For example, the University of Kentucky uses the following guiding principles for its restorative justice approach:

  • Inclusive decision-making
  • Active accountability for the offender
  • Repairing harm
  • Rebuilding trust

Siena College explains that restorative justice often works to decrease recidivism, to increase the respondent’s sense of accountability, and to foster a greater sense of community on campuses. Siena College clarifies that its restorative justice approach has two primary components:

  • Including all parties to reach an appropriate solution to amend the harm
  • Reintegrating all parties into the community

Depending on the particular matter, Siena College has a variety of options that provide restorative justice solutions, including the following:

  • Community Accountability Boards in which communities discuss the impact of an offense on the broader community
  • Circles of Support and Accountability in which dialogue is facilitated between or among the parties
  • Victim and Offender Panels in which an offender expresses remorse and a victim explains the impact of the offense

Contact a National Code of Conduct Lawyer for Assistance

At Duffy Law, we provide representation to complainants and respondents in college code of conduct violation cases across the country. We know how complicated these cases can be, and we have years of experience serving students and their families in these difficult matters. If you have questions or need representation, an experienced national code of conduct attorney at our firm can help. Contact Duffy Law online today or call our office at (203) 946-2000.