January 18, 2017

ABA forms task force to study due process rights in college sexual misconduct cases

WASHINGTON, Jan. 18, 2017 — The American Bar Association Criminal Justice Section has established the ABA Task Force on College Due Process Rights and Victim Protections to developed guidelines and best practices to ensure due process for both the victim and the accused in college campus sexual misconduct cases.

The task force will be led by Andrew S. Boutros, national co-chair of Seyfarth Shaw’s White Collar, Internal Investigations and False Claims Act Team. It will be comprised of 10 to 12 members and will include lawyers, academics, defense attorneys, prosecutors, government officials, victim advocacy representatives and other interested constituents.

“The Criminal Justice Section is committed to fair and balanced procedural and substantive due process in the criminal justice system. Those same carefully calibrated rights and protections for both the victim and the accused are also critical in the college disciplinary system, where the stakes are exceptionally high on both sides and the collateral consequences of a finding of responsibility are abundantly severe,” said Matthew Redle, chair of the ABA Criminal Justice Section. “We are exceedingly pleased to have assembled this august group of diverse thought leaders to study the college disciplinary process in sexual violence cases and make recommendations that we believe will undoubtedly benefit America’s colleges and universities.”

With nearly 5,000 colleges and universities and almost 21 million students, higher education institutions face challenges and responsibilities on how to respond fairly and effectively to allegations of campus sexual assault.  A school’s failure to adapt to changing times, predict and respond to new (and evolving) guidance, implement improved best practices and adhere to expanding legal mandates can spell disaster. Indeed, schools that misstep face Department of Education enforcement actions, criminal prosecution, litigation, reputational damage and an erosion of trust among the school’s many constituents.

The findings of the task force will be drafted into a report along with recommendations and submitted to the ABA Criminal Justice Section Council and the ABA policy-making body House of Delegates, which in turn will urge the nation’s private and public colleges and universities to adopt a disciplinary system that includes procedural and substantive due process protections for the accused while protecting the rights and interests of the victim.  

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