Should You Hire an Attorney for a Title IX Hearing?

A college student facing sexual assault, sexual misconduct, harassment or other serious allegations should strongly consider hiring an experienced defense attorney to help prevail in a Title IX hearing. Title IX hearings can quickly turn into disciplinary hearings that result in devastating consequences for the accused.

What is Title IX?

Title IX is a federal civil rights law prohibiting schools and colleges that receive federal funds from discriminating against individuals based on sex. The law requires schools to have anti-sex discrimination policies in place.

Title IX also mandates that these schools investigate and remediate all claims of sex discrimination made by students and staff, including claims of sexual misconduct and sexual assault.

Title IX Hearing in Massachusetts

Every educational institution must designate a Title IX Coordinator under the law. The Title IX Coordinator makes assessments of all complaints filed and decides what steps to take next. A Coordinator may talk to the alleged victim and might conduct a preliminary investigation.

In a sexual misconduct allegation, the accuser is documented as the “complainant” and the accused is referred to as the “respondent.” These terms are also used in civil law and administrative law.

Even in early stages, a defense lawyer can have a positive impact in your Title IX case. Your defense lawyer can talk with the Coordinator and may succeed in negotiating a positive resolution before a hearing takes place.

The school must notify the accuser that they can also file their complaint with police, but that the school’s investigation and hearing will go forward regardless of any police involvement.

Have You Been Falsely Accused of Sexual Assault in College?

The Title IX investigation is separate from any criminal investigation that may be underway. Police might become involved at some point, but the school does not have to inform you should they become aware of a criminal investigation. Furthermore, the school’s first priority under Title IX is to protect the accuser.

 

If you are contacted by the university’s Title IX department, Do NOT agree to speak to them without your lawyer present! You should be given time to submit your written response to the allegation. Get the advice of a good defense lawyer first. Contact my office for advice here.

 

If a formal complaint is lodged, you could be found responsible (guilty) for violating the school’s No Gender Discrimination policy. Sanctions range from academic suspension to expulsion.

A complaint can be based on activities that occurred on or off campus, such as:

  • Sexual assault allegations
  • Sexual harassment accusations
  • Dating violence and rape
  • Sexual misconduct allegations
  • Violating no-contact orders

The single most important action you can take is to hire a well-qualified defense lawyer who understands how Title IX hearing procedures operate at your university.

Harvard University’s Title IX policy informs its students that:

“When the allegations might constitute criminal conduct, the party against whom they are brought is hereby advised to seek legal counsel before making any written or oral statements and seek advice about how his or her participation in an informal process could affect any criminal case in which he or she is or may become involved.”

What are the Title IX Hearing procedures?

While there aren’t any standardized hearing procedures, the current standard of proof in a Title IX Hearing is a “preponderance of the evidence.” Preponderance means one side’s evidence weighs in as more likely to explain what happened; even if by one percent (i.e. 51% likely.) This is the lowest standard of legal proof.

The Dept. of Education is considering changing this to the “clear and convincing” standard, whereby adjudication will require at least a 75% likelihood that the evidence established the facts for a finding of responsible. However, this is not yet the rule.

Some colleges do not conduct full and fair hearings, but rather make their decisions covertly during the assessment and investigation phase.

This is in stark contrast to your right to Due Process as afforded under the Bill of Rights in the United States Constitution. If the college decided against you without a full and fair hearing, your attorney can help you appeal the decision.

If the school denies your request to appeal, you, your family and your lawyer may determine that filing a Due Process lawsuit against the university is the only proper way to obtain justice.

Seek Immediate Counsel in a Title IX Allegation

Campus sexual assault allegations under Title IX need to be handled with the highest level of advocacy at the very beginning of the process. You need a lawyer uniquely qualified in civil law, criminal law and administrative law.

An experienced defense lawyer can help you by:

  • Advocating and negotiating for you;
  • Exerting your right to show evidence of your innocence;
  • Formulating responses and producing evidence for paper hearings;
  • Preparing you for testimony in closed-door sessions;
  • Providing mental support and strategic consultations;
  • Obtaining copies of all of the evidence against you;
  • Independently evaluating the evidence; and
  • Ensuring the college abides fairly and consistently by its own rules.

False allegations are difficult to defend against and most students are blindsided by the claims. Seek immediate assistance from an established attorney who can fight for your rights, defend your innocence and help protect your future.

 

Attorney Gregory Oberhauser

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Gregory Oberhauser is the ONLY attorney in Massachusetts to be distinguished as an ACS-CHAL Forensic Lawyer-Scientist by the American Chemical Society!

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