Conrad O’Brien partner and Chair of the firm’s Title IX, Due Process & Campus Discipline practice group, Patricia Hamill, was invited to testify on April 2, 2019 before the US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) at the full committee hearing on “Reauthorizing HEA: Addressing Campus Sexual Assault and Ensuring Student Safety and Rights.” Patricia was asked to testify before the committee on what a fair process in a campus disciplinary proceeding involving alleged sexual assault should include. She was one of five witnesses who testified at the hearing.
In her testimony, Patricia drew on her experience representing more than a hundred students and academic professionals, mostly men, who have been accused of various levels of sexual misconduct. Patricia has also represented women complainants and respondents. Her perspective on these issues is balanced by her personal background as a “feminist, married to a woman, graduate of a women’s college, and the mother of two teenage sons and a daughter who is in college.”
During her testimony at the hearing, Patricia emphasized that it is a fundamental principle of American jurisprudence that all persons are entitled to a fair hearing. In Patricia’s written testimony, she outlined several procedural protections that are required for a fair and reliable process. During the hearing, she specifically spoke about the importance of a live hearing and allowing the parties’ advisors to question the other party and witnesses. These provisions in the proposed regulations have provoked particular opposition. However, they are consistent with longstanding legal precedent and critical to a fair determination, ensuring that the parties can test, and decisionmakers can assess, the credibility and reliability of the parties and witnesses.
Patricia’s opening statement can be viewed on YouTube here; her opening statement is available to read here; her written testimony is available to read here; and the full live hearing can be watched here (Patricia’s opening statement at time marker 43:10.