The Duke lacrosse rape case that unraveled a decade ago taught state officials about the dangers of tunnel vision.
Attorney General Josh Stein seems to have missed the lesson.
Stein was a top lieutenant in Roy Cooper’s N.C. Department of Justice during the high-profile prosecution of three Duke University lacrosse players who were falsely accused of rape. Cooper branded then-Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong a “rogue prosecutor” for withholding DNA evidence that exonerated the defendants and dismissed all charges after taking over the case in April 2007.
Ten years later, Stein is publicly opposing long-overdue reforms to federal rules that deprive college students of due process when they’re accused of sexual misconduct.
Under the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights’ instruction on Title IX, all colleges and universities that receive federal funding are required to investigate claims of sexual harassment, rape and sexual assault. The amateur investigations by higher-ed bureaucrats culminate in disciplinary hearings that are often weighted against the accused.
Federal regulators require these campus kangaroo courts to use the lowest possible evidentiary standard, “preponderance of the evidence,” and don’t guarantee accused students the right to introduce evidence, question their accuser, call witnesses or even have legal representation.
Stein joined 17 other Democratic state attorneys general in signing a July 19 letter that accuses Education Secretary Betsy DeVos of “preparing to roll back important protections for survivors of sexual assault on college campuses.”
DeVos and Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Candice Jackson have signaled that the Title IX regulations issued under President Barack Obama’s administration in 2011 may be rescinded in favor of new guidelines that promote due process for both complainants and the accused.
The Obama-era rules need to go, and Stein should be ashamed for standing in the way of procedural fairness. A system known to railroad defendants lacks legitimacy and undermines the very ideals of justice our attorney general is sworn to uphold.
Kangaroo courts are ill-suited to serve victims of sexual violence. The most serious punishment they can mete out is expulsion, which merely sends rapists off-campus to reoffend. Colleges should refer serious crimes to police and prosecutors, who have the power to put violators behind bars for decades.
Instead, the Obama administration’s interpretation of Title IX requires colleges to treat sex abuse like an ordinary student conduct violation such as cheating on a test. We don’t see how trivializing sexual assault in this manner offers victims any measure of comfort, let alone protection.
Students found responsible for misconduct have begun suing college officials for violations of their due process rights. Since the campus disciplinary hearings rarely resemble a fair trial, plaintiffs are racking up victories.
Stein should do his homework before barging into the national conversation surrounding Title IX hearings. Instead of following in Cooper’s footsteps, he appears to be taking his cues on procedural fairness from Nifong.
— The Wilson Times