The Need for Attorney Representation. High school students who face Title IX sexual assault or sexual harassment charges, and their concerned parents, know that they need to quickly hire skilled and experienced attorney representation. That instinct is certainly sound. High school students and their parents and other family members have a lot riding on Title IX charges. The student can suffer expulsion. Depending on what the high school Title IX proceeding concludes, criminal charges and civil liability could potentially follow. The student can suffer long-term educational, career, and reputational impacts, while family members suffer their own emotional, social, financial, and reputational losses. Title IX charges are serious business. High school students and parents are right to treat them seriously by retaining a skilled and experienced Title IX academic administrative defense attorney like premier national attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm.
The Knee-Jerk Temptation. The temptation, though, of high school students facing Title IX charges and their worried parents is to reach out to the first available local defense attorney. Because of the quasi-criminal nature of school sexual misconduct charges, they often think first of a local criminal defense attorney. Local criminal defense attorneys are usually easy to find. Every community of any reasonable size, especially one with a courthouse, has a criminal defense attorney to defend clients against drunk driving, disorderly conduct, and similar common criminal charges. But in this case, as in so many other cases, the knee-jerk temptation to take what's local and convenient is generally the wrong move. Local criminal defense attorneys do not typically have the substantial skills and experience that defending federal Title IX misconduct charges in an academic administrative proceeding require. Hire a local criminal defense attorney to defend criminal drunk driving charges in court, not federal Title IX charges in an administrative proceeding. Here's why.
Law Is a Specialty Practice
Attorneys specialize for a reason: law is extraordinarily subtle, varied, uncertain, contextual, and complex. Law school generally teaches lawyers only the tip of the iceberg and common principles and practices. Ask most lawyers, and they'll tell you that they didn't really begin to learn law practice until their first day on the job at the firm. And what lawyers learn is what they practice. Lawyers specialize, much like doctors specialize. Today, even family practice is a medical specialty. Family practice even has pediatric, geriatric, sports, and pain-management subspecialties. You wouldn't go to an ear-nose-and-throat doctor for a foot or arm ailment. You wouldn't go to a cancer specialist to treat diabetes. The same wisdom is true in law. Practicing lawyers generally find a specialty or even a boutique practice niche, and then they continually learn their specialty's changing law while sticking to their specialty. A local criminal defense attorney might be willing to defend Title IX charges, but willingness does not equal competence.
The Attorney You Don't Need. For high school Title IX defense, you don't need a local criminal defense attorney, general practice lawyer, estate planning lawyer, or civil litigation lawyer who does not specialize in academic administrative misconduct defense.
The Attorney You Need. For high school Title IX defense, you need a skilled and experienced academic administrative lawyer who specializes in Title IX defense and has the legal staff, investigators, expert witnesses, and consultants with similar experience.
Title IX Charges Are Administrative, Not Criminal, Charges
Title IX charges based on high school misconduct are administrative charges. High schools and the districts that support them are generally public or government administrative entities. Government entities generally address and resolve their internal disputes through administrative, not court, procedures. School Title IX proceedings take place under school administrative rules and procedures, not court rules and procedures. Administrative officials file, evaluate, hear, and decide Title IX charges, not court judges or jurors. If you retain for high school Title IX defense a local criminal defense attorney, that attorney will ordinarily have experience in court, not administrative matters. Prosecutors file criminal charges in courts, where local criminal defense attorneys defend those charges before criminal court judges and juries. A local criminal defense attorney is generally a duck out of water in a federal Title IX academic administrative proceeding.
The Attorney You Don't Need. For high school Title IX defense in an academic administrative proceeding, you don't need a local criminal defense attorney, civil litigation attorney, real property attorney, municipal law attorney, or other local lawyer without Title IX academic administrative defense knowledge and experience.
The Attorney You Need. For high school Title IX defense in an academic administrative proceeding, you need a Title IX academic administrative attorney who knows Title academic administrative procedures.
Title IX Charges Involve Federal, Not State, Law
Title IX is part of the federal Education Amendments of 1972, 20 USC §1681 et seq. Title IX, the important history of its interpretation and amendment, and its implementing regulations codified at 34 CFR Part 106 are together extraordinarily complex. Federal law, under the Constitution both limited in reach while also supreme in effect, differs from state law in those and other important respects. Title IX law is especially fluid, its administrative interpretation and regulations changing with every change in the politics of the federal executive. Few, if any, local criminal defense attorneys have taken the time to learn and stay current on Title IX law, rules, and regulations. Instead, local criminal defense attorneys know state criminal laws and local crime ordinances. They know what constitutes drunk driving, disorderly conduct, burglary, and trespass, not what constitutes hostile environment sexual harassment or the administrative rules on whether defense attorneys may cross-examine Title IX witnesses. Title IX academic administrative defense attorneys, not local criminal defense lawyers, commit their law practices to staying current on Title IX developments.
The Attorney You Don't Need. For high school Title IX defense governed by federal law and regulations, you don't need a local criminal defense attorney who is unfamiliar with the critical nuances and interpretations of federal Title IX law.
The Attorney You Need. For high school Title IX defense governed by federal law and regulations, you need a Title IX academic administrative defense lawyer whose practice daily involves interpreting and applying current Title IX law.
Title IX Procedures Are National, Not Local
Because Title IX is federal law implemented under federal regulations interpreted by federal courts, Title IX procedures are federal and national rather than local. Local criminal defense attorneys generally do not venture into federal courts because federal courts follow federal rather than state or local procedures. The practice rules differ, often significantly. But because Title IX proceedings are federal administrative rather than court procedures, Title IX procedures differ even more from state and local court procedures. There is little or nothing local about a Title IX proceeding. A national Title IX academic administrative defense attorney who knows Title IX's federal administrative procedures like the back of his hand will be vastly more adept at handling a Title IX proceeding anywhere in the country than will a criminal defense attorney from the locale.
The Attorney You Don't Need. For local high school Title IX defense, you don't need a local criminal defense attorney, local civil litigation attorney, local business attorney, or any other local attorney because Title IX law and procedures are not local.
The Attorney You Need. For local high school Title IX defense, you need a national Title IX academic administrative defense attorney who knows the federal, nationwide law that governs Title IX law and procedures.
Title IX Law and Procedures Frequently Change
The Obama Administration issued a widely hailed and criticized Dear Colleague letter in 2011 that transformed how schools pursued and handled Title IX charges. Title IX attorneys across the nation scrambled to adjust to those Title IX changes, while litigants challenged the changes and modified federal law in case after case. Then, the Trump Administration succeeded in promulgating extensive new regulations, summarized in this single-page executive fact sheet but addressed in countless pages of rules and interpretations, once again transforming the Title IX substantive and procedural landscape. Once again, though, litigants challenged the changes in case after case, resulting in further interpretations and changes. Currently, the Biden Administration is issuing directives and developing regulations to transform the Title IX landscape once again, turning it back toward the Obama-era interpretation but also in new directions. Title IX academic administrative defense attorneys follow these changes closely. Local criminal defense attorneys generally do not, especially with equally transformative changes constantly occurring in many other law fields.
The Attorney You Don't Need. For high school Title IX defense under an ever-changing legal and procedural landscape, you do not need a local criminal defense attorney, civil litigation attorney, or family lawyer who doesn't follow Title IX law closely to stay current in all of its important developments.
The Attorney You Need. For high school Title IX defense, you need a Title IX academic administrative defense attorney who consumes news about Title IX amendments, cases, and interpretations, and potential changes, as if the specialty practice depended on it because it does.
Academic Administrative Proceedings Have Unique Customs
Everyone knows that the academic customs, norms, behaviors, expectations, and culture within high schools and other educational institutions are vastly different from the norms, styles, and customs in business, commercial, professional, medical, financial, retail, industrial, and other settings including court and legal settings. Criminal defense attorneys and civil litigation attorneys behave a certain way in court, treating one another, their clients, their responsibilities, and their adversaries after a certain fashion. Even the lay public expects court lawyers to act in a certain way based on film, television, and media depictions or personal court experiences. But in high school Title IX proceedings, Title IX academic administrative defense attorneys do not behave like courtroom lawyers because none of the participants would welcome, expect, or respect courtroom behavior. Title IX proceedings follow different rules and procedures in which the adversarial behavior appropriate to courtrooms has absolutely no place. Title IX attorneys know how to behave in Title IX proceedings. Local criminal defense attorneys without Title IX academic administrative experience don't.
Title IX Procedures Are Largely Informal, Not Formal
Criminal cases follow strict, published rules and procedures defined and bound by important constitutional rights. Prosecutors, judges, and criminal defense attorneys can hardly sneeze or look left or right without first ensuring that they are following the rules, respecting the rights, and meeting the ethics that criminal cases demand. The level of formality, strict application, and great detail of criminal procedures for things like handling evidence, getting information from the defendant, and exchanging evidence in discovery, startle even civil litigation attorneys who follow their own formal court procedures. But Title IX administrative procedures have nothing near the formality of criminal case procedures. Schools appoint Title IX investigators who often pretty much do whatever they want to do, and don't do what they don't want to do, to develop the Title IX case. Schools then appoint Title IX hearing officials who do pretty much whatever they want to do in the conduct of the hearing, with few if any evidence rules or objections. Criminal defense attorneys would generally feel lost in a Title IX administrative proceeding, just as a Title IX administrative lawyer would feel choked and bound when trying to defend a criminal case.
The Attorney You Don't Need. For high school Title IX defense conducted informally, a local criminal defense attorney whose formal criminal practice has trained him or her not to do anything other than that strictly authorized by criminal procedures respecting constitutional rights.
The Attorney You Need. For high school Title IX defense conducted informally, you need a Title IX academic administrative defense attorney who knows how to investigate, discover, negotiate, navigate, and resolve Title IX charges confidently, creatively, and effectively.
The Outcomes and Options Are Vastly Different
High school Title IX administrative charges address the accused student's school conduct. The primary question is whether the student should get to continue without penalty or restriction in the same high school or should suffer contact restrictions, suspension, or expulsion. Title IX proceedings are primarily about protecting the purported victim and other students, preserving the learning environment, and removing the purported perpetrator, if the facts prove the allegations and the misconduct warrants that protection. In light of those educational goals, Title IX academic administrative defense attorneys can often propose, negotiate, and win creative resolutions. Perhaps the accused student simply changes classes, hours, or schools, with a dismissal of the disputed charges. Perhaps the accused student receives sensitivity training or psychological counseling. Title IX goals are protective and rehabilitative, not penal. Criminal cases are penal. Criminal cases punish guilty defendants. Creative options to resolve a criminal case are limited. A local criminal defense attorney likely does not know and is unskilled in negotiating creative, win-win Title IX resolutions.
The Attorney You Don't Need. For high school Title IX defense offering resolution options, you don't need a local criminal defense attorney whose criminal practice doesn't offer many creative resolutions or develop the attorney's skills in crafting and negotiating those resolutions.
The Attorney You Need. For high school Title IX defense offering resolution options, you need a Title IX academic administrative defense attorney who knows what schools frequently accept in protective and rehabilitative, win-win measures.
You've read a lot by now about why a local criminal defense attorney very probably lacks the critical knowledge, skills, and ethics of a Title IX academic administrative defense attorney, for representing a high school student in a Title IX proceeding. None of that critique is to belittle the skills of a local criminal defense attorney. Criminal defense practice can develop some of the strong commitments and advocacy skills that also benefit Title IX attorneys in Title IX practice. Indeed, national Title IX academic administrative defense attorney Joseph D. Lento has extensive experience and skill in criminal defense cases. But Attorney Lento also has many years of experience in Title IX academic administrative matters, to which he devotes his nationwide practice.
If you or your child face high school Title IX charges, then retain a skilled and experienced Title IX academic administrative defense attorney, not a local criminal defense attorney. National Title IX academic administrative defense attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm are available to aggressively and effectively defend you or your high school child. Attorney Lento has helped hundreds of high school students nationwide successfully defend Title IX charges, rescuing their education and reputation. Call 888.535.3686 or go online to tell Attorney Lento and the expert Lento Law Firm team about your case.