Students facing Title IX investigations often fear that they will be found responsible, even if they know that they did not commit the misconduct. Many others in my field support this belief, and use it to convince potential clients that the only possible response to the investigation is to assume the result is a forgone conclusion, there is no way to win, and the only recourse is to sue the school. Some even encourage students to not present a defense at all. In my experience, this approach is a mistake with drastic consequences.
Many other lawyers in this field tell their students and families that they will not be treated fairly, will be found responsible no matter what they do, and that they should assume that they will have to sue their university. They don’t tell their students that these lawsuits are rarely won and will potentially cost tens of thousands of dollars to fight. I don’t take this approach. My students and I work on presenting a thorough defense to the case. We fight and we win.
To be clear, without thorough preparation, there is a high chance the student will be held responsible. Many schools publish statistics stating how many Title IX investigations take place and how many students are found responsible. For example, CSU Sonoma State reports that in the 2015-2016 academic year, there were 14 investigations, 11 of which resulted in the accused student being found responsible and sanctioned.
In contrast to those statistics, I work with students to overcome these odds. About 75% of my clients successfully defend their investigations and are not found responsible for violations. I advise dozens of students every year at colleges all over the United States. I’m proud of my students and the record of success they’ve achieved at over 60 colleges and universities throughout the United States.
Title IX investigations are decided on a “preponderance of the evidence” standard. This means that the investigator will decide whether the information gathered, as a whole, shows that the accusation is “more likely than not” to be true. To understand this another way, the student who presents the most convincing information is the most likely to have the investigator side with him or her. If you fight the school, don’t tell your side of the case, and don’t present your evidence, you won’t have the preponderance of the evidence in your favor because you won’t be presenting convincing evidence. You will be found responsible. I’ve never seen the benefit to that strategy. In fact, utilizing this strategy predominantly results in findings of responsibility, which leads to suspension or expulsion from the University.
The key to my students’ success is that we prepare very thoroughly and defend the investigation. We work together to prepare a complete statement of the defense. We gather all possible documents and evidence that support my student. We identify possible witnesses who can supply helpful information or corroborate the defense. In some cases, we have hired expert witnesses to provide essential information, such as information about intoxication and incapacity, or to rebut the findings of forensic sexual assault medical exams. Once we have developed and refined the defense, we thoroughly practice for the interview. My goal is that my students are able to present their true defenses confidently and convincingly. My focus on preparation is the key to success.
This approach works because my clients present convincing testimony and evidence. They are well prepared to answer the investigator’s questions without contradicting themselves, or giving unconvincing or incomplete information. They are prepared to answer tough questions. They make it clear that they aren’t hiding anything. They show that the accusation is not supported by the preponderance of the evidence.
Obviously, I can’t guarantee you that you will win your case. Every case is different and depends on the facts. I can guarantee that I will use my skill and experience to your benefit, and that my experience with more than 100 students has shown me that students who prepare, present a thorough case, and defend themselves properly can win.