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On Campus Disciplinary Proceedings Must Comply with Due Process

Last year, a federal judge in Michigan issued a landmark decision in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals that upheld an accused student's right to due process when faced with an accusation of an on-campus sexual assault. The ruling in John Doe v. University of Michigan, et al. confirmed that a college or university must give an accused student or his agent an opportunity to cross-examine the accuser and adverse witnesses in the presence of a neutral fact-finder to ensure a fair hearing.

The Doe case centered around two Michigan students' sexual encounter, which later led to an accusation of rape because the female student claimed she was too drunk to consent. The University interviewed both parties to the encounter and twenty three other witnesses, but did not hold a hearing and did not allow the parties to cross-examine any witnesses. Because no one observed the actions which led to the accusation, the University's Appeals Board ultimately had to make a credibility determination. The Appeals Board found the female student's version of events "more credible" than the male's, and the University moved to sanction him. The male student then withdrew from the school and filed a lawsuit claiming that University's disciplinary proceedings violated his rights under the Due Process Clause and Title IX.

On appeal, the federal Court held that the right to cross-examination in on-campus proceedings is constitutionally required when determinations of credibility must be made. The Court even noted that cross-examination is the greatest legal engine ever invented for uncovering the truth. Accordingly, it held that the male student's right to cross-examination was violated by the biased and unfair process, and the Court sent the case back for further proceedings. Without a hearing and the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses, the male student was deprived of his right to be heard.

At Lynch & Pine Attorneys at Law, we have represented numerous students who have been accused of on-campus misconduct, sexual assault, and academic infractions. We have successfully navigated the lopsided and often unfair campus proceedings to ensure our clients receive their constitutionally guaranteed rights to be heard and to cross-examine witnesses. If you are faced with an on-campus disciplinary proceeding where your rights may be at risk, you need a skilled advocate to represent you at each step of the investigation and hearing process. We invite you to contact one of our attorneys today to ensure that your rights are protected in any on-campus incident or disciplinary process.

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