We represent and counsel students and faculty members throughout the country who are facing a lack of fairness during a campus investigation and disciplinary proceeding arising from alleged Title IX or conduct code violations in higher education. Led by Patricia Hamill as Chair and Lorie Dakessian as Vice-Chair, our team has represented more than 200 students and faculty members nationwide in disciplinary matters or related litigation involving more than 100 colleges and universities. When students or faculty members are reeling from an accusation or have been subjected to an unfair disciplinary proceeding, they and their families turn to Conrad O’Brien to guide them through the process and craft a personalized plan to position them for favorable outcomes, including bringing litigation on their behalf when necessary.
Our team of attorneys act swiftly in representing our clients in investigations, disciplinary hearings, appeals, or, when resolution cannot be reached, filing lawsuits against public or private universities for lack of due process, Title IX or other civil rights violations, breach of contract, or tort liability. We are familiar with issues facing students and faculty members in today’s world, including cases regarding alleged violations of COVID-19 protocols. Our attorneys are tenacious and driven and will put our all into devising and implementing a strategy designed for a favorable outcome while offering empathy and responsive service every step of the way. We take a holistic approach to each client and the specific situation, often working together to minimize the impact of their current case on their future paths and aspirations and mindful of the various ways these proceedings can disrupt day-to-day life and future prospects.
Conrad O’Brien attorneys are actively engaged with Title IX issues beyond our client representations and work with other attorneys and legislators to effect change. We are often sought out by individuals, educational and professional associations, and members of government for our opinions on how to work within the framework of the federal laws and guidance. Given our expertise, Patricia Hamill was invited to testify before the U.S. 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” (April 2019). She testified before the Committee on what a fair process in a campus disciplinary proceeding involving alleged sexual assault should include. In her testimony, Patricia emphasized that it is a fundamental principle of American jurisprudence that all persons are entitled to a fair hearing.
"They are state of the art litigators in the Title IX area."
Chambers USA 2020
Disciplinary Hearing Advice and Representation
Conrad O’Brien represents college students and faculty members nationwide who are subjected to campus investigations and disciplinary proceedings. We ensure that each client understands the university’s process, seeks procedural safeguards, and is afforded a fair hearing. Our attorneys also have successfully avoided litigation by negotiating with university counsel to resolve and settle cases, including having student disciplinary findings and sanctions vacated or modified.
Our student clients may be subject to interim measures that limit their access to activities and campus or their dorms, removed from sports teams, or have their education interrupted by a suspension or expulsion. We work closely with students and their families to help them navigate and fully prepare for the challenges of a university’s policies and procedures governing investigations and disciplinary proceedings. Our team also is experienced in guiding students through the evolving and complicated world of informal resolutions. Our team also skillfully works with students whose situations may be complicated by mental health concerns or the need for disability accommodations.
Our faculty member clients may be placed on administrative leave (unpaid or paid), facing speculation about their absence from work, confronting First Amendment and academic freedom issues, concerns with tenure, and concerns with efforts at re-employment by another educational institution. We are adept at developing and implementing a strategy to navigate what are often intricate university policies and procedures to best position our clients for a favorable outcome.
Title IX and Code of Conduct Litigation
Conrad O’Brien will file lawsuits against both public and private universities when pre-litigation resolution cannot be achieved. We have achieved favorable results in several high-profile lawsuits in which we sued colleges and universities for failing to ensure the accused student’s fundamental due process rights, violated Title IX by discriminating against them on the basis of sex, and breached the school’s contractual obligations with respect to its handling of misconduct allegations. We have litigated cases nationwide and our current litigation includes cases against Loyola University Chicago and Washington and Lee University.
Represented a male student who was disciplined on sexual misconduct charges, and brought litigation in federal court against Brandeis University. The court’s comprehensive decision denying the University’s motion to dismiss vindicated our client when the court found “that Brandeis denied [the student] the ‘basic fairness’ to which he was entitled,” and also opined “Whether someone is a ‘victim’ is a conclusion to be reached at the end of a fair process, not an assumption to be made at the beginning.” The ruling (Doe v. Brandeis University, 177 F. Supp. 3d 561, 573 (D. Mass. 2016) has been cited in virtually every lawsuit subsequently filed by an accused student and hailed by many as one of the most far-reaching decisions supporting student rights and for its advocacy of common sense and fairness in the handling of campus disciplinary matters. (See, for example: “Denying Due Process” (chapter 4) in The Campus Rape Frenzy: The Attack on Due Process at America’s Universities, Stuart Taylor Jr. and KC Johnson, and “The Campus Sex-Crime Tribunals are Losing,” The Commentary Magazine, September 8, 2017, KC Johnson.) The case was also cited by the Department of Education in its September 2017 Guidance withdrawing the 2011 Dear Colleague Letter and the 2014 Questions and Answers on Title IX and Sexual Violence.
Conrad O’Brien achieved a favorable settlement for a student who was expelled shortly before the end of his senior year. His college concluded our client had participated in livestreaming a consensual sexual encounter between two other students, though even the alleged female victim told the college he was not involved. The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights found the college in violation of Title IX, concluding it had not provided our client (or other accused male students) with essential procedural protections and had not followed the safeguards provided for in its own disciplinary policies and procedures. Faced with a potential federal lawsuit, the college agreed to make a substantial monetary payment, vacate the finding of responsibility and sanctions against our client, and give him a clean record
Represented a male student in litigation against a private university near Chicago, challenging the result of the sexual misconduct disciplinary finding that resulted in the student’s extended exclusion from the university and which required reapplication without a guarantee of re-admission and with a permanent disciplinary notation on his record. The lawsuit was filed in federal district court and asserted violations of Title IX and breach of contract. The case settled within five months of filing the complaint.