College campuses are increasingly handling more and more Title IX investigations, complaints, and hearings. Over the years campus authorities have gotten better at organizing investigations and hearings. But the rules keep changing. The Department of Education’s guidelines for Title IX seem to change with every new presidential administration. This makes understanding the Title IX process, a very stressful process to begin with, even more frustrating for the complainants and respondents involved.
Value in Experienced Counsel
Speaking with an attorney that is familiar with Title IX proceedings is a crucial step in the process. Ideally, you would speak with an attorney before filing a Title IX complaint or immediately after receiving notice that a complaint has been filed against you. While a Title IX investigation and hearing mimics a police investigation and a criminal trial, they are very different processes. It’s important that you understand what protections you have under the law, what evidence can be submitted, and how to prepare for the hearing so that your side is both persuasive and admissible.
Recent Rittgers Rittgers & Nakajima Example – “Not Responsible” Finding
In a recent hearing, at a local university, our client was found Not Responsible for Title IX sexual assault after almost a yearlong investigation and multi-day hearing. The complainant did not have legal counsel as an advisor. She used a non-attorney advisor that was provided by the school. Under Title IX regulations, a student must have an advisor, and advisors must be provided by the school if a student does not select their own advisor. Title IX advisors are not required to be attorneys; however, the advisors are required to conduct examinations of the witnesses in the hearing. A skill that good trial attorneys are extremely adept at.
The stark contrast in the cases presented by our client and the complainant with a non-attorney advisor was very apparent. Not just during the examination of witnesses, but also in the preparation of the cases, the persuasiveness of the arguments, and the evidence that was submitted for consideration. The latter was the most egregious error that was made by the non-attorney advisor. The complainant turned over a substantial amount of evidence for consideration. Which is usually a smart decision so that the panel has ample evidence to consider and because the complainant has the burden of proving the complainant. However, in this case, the weaknesses in the evidence were very apparent to our firm’s attorney, Neal Schuett, who is an experienced Title IX advisor and trial attorney.
In finding our client Not Responsible, the panel noted that it was the complainant’s testimony and evidence, and then the contradictions and weaknesses of that evidence that our Neal highlighted during the questioning of the complainant, that proved that the complainant’s case must fail. Selecting the right advisor can be the difference between winning and losing a case.
Whether you are the complainant or the respondent in a Title IX investigation or hearing, speak to an experienced attorney about the complicated process, your rights, and how to best prepare for the interviews, written replies, and the hearing that will occur. Neal has many years of experience working both sides of Title IX investigations in various colleges and universities throughout Ohio.