University faculty and staff are popular targets of sexual misconduct accusations. In today's political climate, schools are quick to accuse and quick to condemn. After all, no one wants to risk a public scandal. Yet, while a policy of jumping at shadows might satisfy victims' rights organizations, it can't be called justice.
If you've been accused, your career is on the line, and you can't expect your university to give you the benefit of the doubt. You need someone on your side, someone who can look out for your rights, someone who can make sure you're treated fairly and that you don't become a victim of mob justice. The law entitles you to choose an advisor to help you prepare your defense. Even better, it says that advisor can be an attorney. Pick a Title IX attorney, someone who knows the law and who has experience dealing with campus justice.
What is Title IX?
First things first: what is Title IX? Title IX is a federal law, passed in 1972, that prohibits sexual discrimination on college campuses. In the fifty years since it was originally passed, “discrimination” has come to mean any kind of “harassment,” including all forms of sexual misconduct, from inappropriate verbal comments to rape.
The law goes further. It outlines a strict set of rules for how schools must investigate and adjudicate sexual misconduct allegations. The good news is that those rules provide respondents (the accused) with some important due process rights. The bad news is that the process itself can be difficult to navigate, and it's not always easy to know how to use those rights to your advantage.
Here's a brief summary of what Title IX says.
- Your school has a designated Title IX Coordinator. Anyone may accuse you of misconduct, and, in fact, at some schools, faculty and staff are required to report any knowledge they may have of sexual offenses. However, only a Complainant (alleged victim) or the Coordinator may sign an official complaint against you.
- You are entitled to written notice any time you are under investigation. Notice should include the name of the Complainant and details about the allegation.
- Under Title IX, you have a number of other important rights:
- You have the right to be presumed “not responsible” (innocent).
- You have the right to an advisor, who may be an attorney.
- You have the right to submit evidence and suggest witnesses.
- You have the right to review all evidence against you.
- You have the right to advanced notice of any official meetings or proceedings.
- You have the right to unbiased investigators and decision-makers.
- You have the right to be treated the same as the Complainant in all matters.
- The Coordinator appoints the case Investigator. You can expect this person to meet separately with both you and the Complainant to get both sides of the story. In addition, they will collect any physical evidence and interview any witnesses.
- Once the investigation is complete, the Investigator creates a written summary of their findings. Both sides then have ten days to review this document and suggest any revisions.
- After receiving the Investigative Report, the Coordinator sets a date and time for an official hearing. They also select one or more Decision Makers to preside over the case and determine the final outcome.
- The hearing is an opportunity for both sides to present their cases. You may make arguments, submit evidence, and call witnesses to testify on your behalf. The Complainant may do the same. In addition, you may cross-examine each other and any witnesses against you. Typically, your advisor must ask all questions, and if you do not have an advisor your school must appoint one for you.
- Once the hearing has concluded, the Decision Makers determine your level of responsibility. In doing so, they apply a legal standard known as “Preponderance of Evidence.” Far less strict than “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt,” this standard actually requires Decision Makers find you responsible if they believe it is “more likely than not” that you committed an offense.
- Finally, you have the right to appeal the decision, as does the Complainant. Your school will have a time limit, though, on filing this appeal. In addition, you'll only be able to file for certain very specific reasons, such as
- The discovery of new evidence
- The demonstration of obvious mistakes in Title IX procedures
- The demonstration of clear bias on the part of a Title IX official
Non-Title IX Cases
For decades, schools used Title IX to deal with virtually all sexual misconduct cases. That's no longer true. In 2020, the Trump administration put new rules into place that limited schools' jurisdictional authority. For example, off-campus incidents no longer fall under the law. In response, many schools created new policies to handle these so-called “non-Title IX” cases.
Because these cases aren't subject to federal law, schools aren't required to follow Title IX guidelines in investigating and adjudicating them. Nor are they required to provide respondents with any particular due process rights. For instance, your school might not presume you are innocent. Some schools don't allow you to defend yourself at a live hearing. A single administrator might be in charge of all aspects of the case. Often, then, these cases can be even more complex than Title IX cases.
Joseph D. Lento, Title IX Attorney
You probably have a sense by now of why you might need an attorney if you find yourself fighting a Title IX accusation. Successfully defending yourself requires hard work and tenacity. Those alone, though, won't win your case. You also need to know the law. You need to have some skill at coming up with effective legal strategies. You need to be adept at handling complex legal procedures. Or, at least, you need someone on your side who has these abilities. Keep in mind: the Complainant will almost certainly have an attorney. You should too.
Not just any attorney will do, though. You want a lawyer who knows Title IX, and who understands the unique demands of campus justice systems.
Joseph D. Lento isn't the average attorney. He's what's known as a “Title IX attorney.” That means he's spent years studying Title IX; he keeps up with its changes; he monitors all the politics that affect it. Just as important, Joseph D. Lento understands how schools operate. He knows what tactics they use, and he knows how to counter those tactics. Joseph D. Lento has helped hundreds of college employees get the justice they deserve, and he can help you.
If you've been accused of Title IX sexual misconduct in Wisconsin, don't wait. Contact the Lento Law Firm's Maryland office today, at 888-555-3686, or use our automated online form.