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Posted Feb 28, 2017 07:45 am CST
A lawyer on contract with Stanford University to represent individuals involved in campus sexual misconduct matters—who lost the business after publicly criticizing the school’s standard of proof—should be reinstated, according to a resolution recently passed by the student senate.
Crystal Riggins, a Hoge Fenton Jones & Appel partner, was one of six outside lawyers the school used to represent the accusers and the accused in sexual misconduct matters, Law.com reports.
To find that someone engaged in sexual misconduct, Stanford requires a 3-0 panel decision against the accused, according to the article. In December 2016, Riggins told the New York Times that getting a unanimous finding against the accused was difficult and gave accusers incentive to settle their claims.
Stanford Law School professors Deborah L. Rhode, Mark A. Lemley and Michele Landis Dauber were among five academics who wrote a letter (PDF) to the student senate urging that Riggins’ termination be rescinded.
“We do not believe that it is appropriate to terminate an attorney for advocacy that the attorney believes is in her client’s interest. Nor is constructive for the University to silence critics rather than to learn from their concerns,” the letter reads. “We also believe that this incident suggests that Title IX legal assistance program as currently constructed, however well intentioned, creates a potential for actual or potential conflicts of interest, and should be revised.”
The university did not respond to requests for comment, according to the article.
Dauber—who last year launched a recall effort against the Santa Clara County judge who presiding over the sexual assault trial and sentencing of Brock Turner, the Washington Post reported at the time—told Law.com that the school only pays outside lawyers $1,800 to handle sexual misconduct matters. According to her, that creates another incentive for the matters to settle.
“Interfering with an attorney who is trying to exercise her professional judgment and advocate for her client is completely unacceptable,” Dauber said. “I and my colleagues are going to continue to weigh in in whatever way we think we can be effective to persuade Stanford that it’s on the wrong course here.”
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