TAKING COLLEGE DISCIPLINARY HEARINGS SERIOUSLY
No college student facing a disciplinary charge that might result in suspension or expulsion should proceed without an attorney experienced in representing students in college disciplinary proceedings.
Having successfully represented clients in complex litigation matters for nearly four decades, I began representing college students faced with serious disciplinary charges, when I became aware of rampant injustice on our college campuses. I decided to use my talents and experience to help college students so that they do not have to face the disciplinary process alone or with unskilled advisers.
A college education is the most significant investment that most families make, other than purchasing a home. Despite the lifelong importance of a college degree, colleges and universities often provide college students facing potential suspension or expulsion, with inadequate procedural protections.
College disciplinary proceedings are nothing like judicial courtroom trials. Notice to the student of the charges he or she will be facing, may lack sufficient detail to enable a proper defense. The accused student may be required to attend on short notice, a preliminary meeting with a college official, at which the student may, out of fear or confusion, make statements harmful to their defense.
Many colleges do not even permit an attorney into the hearing room. When attorneys are allowed to attend, they can advise their clients, but cannot present their client's case. Cross-examination of witnesses may not be allowed, and if it is, questions to witnesses or the accuser must often be posed through the college official presiding over the hearing, who may or may not ask the questions. Given the stakes involved, an accused student must know how best to present their case.
When a student retains me, I carefully review the Student Handbook, and insist that the College abides by its promises. I work with the student to make the correct strategic choices. Sometimes, for example, it is in the student's interest to accept responsibility for the charged offense. That difficult decision should never be made lightly.
If a case proceeds to hearing, I assist my client in marshalling the facts, obtaining favorable witnesses, and understanding how to present themselves at the hearing – the best tone to take, what to say and not to say, and questions to pose to any adverse witnesses. I will usually contact the General Counsel for the college. Often, the college's attorney makes sure that the school follows its own rules, and will sometimes help to prevent an overreaction by college officials.
Sexual assault cases are especially treacherous for the accused student. Rape is a terrible crime that should be severely punished. On college campuses, a sexual assault allegation against a male student by a female student, places the male student at risk for being found responsible and expelled even if he is innocent. Under pressure from the federal Department of Education, colleges and universities must use the lowest evidentiary standard, "preponderance of the evidence," to determine whether a sexual assault occurred. There is a witch hunt mentality on many campuses, causing accused male students to be presumed guilty simply because they have been accused. Men wrongly expelled from their college as a result of a sexual assault accusation are increasingly suing their schools for violation of Title IX and other violations of law. Eventually, I expect the courts to pay more attention to the rights of accused men. Currently, though, courts are overly deferential to colleges. When a male student is accused of sexual assault, the assistance of counsel at the earliest stage is critical.
I grew up understanding academia. My father was the founder and Chair of a department at a major Boston university. There are college officials who bring wisdom and compassion to the disciplinary process. Regrettably, there are also those who have a narrow and punitive perspective. An accused student should always assume the worst and present the strongest possible defense.
When you retain me, I promise that I will bring my four decades of experience, an understanding of the college disciplinary process, and a fire for justice, to your case.