With Patricia Hamill as Chair and Lorie Dakessian as Vice-Chair, Conrad O’Brien represents and counsels both accused and complainant students throughout the country who have suffered from a lack of fairness during a campus investigation and disciplinary proceeding arising from a Title IX or student code violation in higher education. When students are reeling from an accusation, have suffered from sexual assault or harassment, 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 the student for a favorable outcome.
We are tenacious and driven as attorneys, but also never forget the emotional needs of our student clients and their families, offering empathy and responsive service every step of the way. Our team of partners and associates is familiar with issues facing students in today’s world and can act swiftly in representing students at a disciplinary hearing, handling an appeal, or, in some situations, filing lawsuits against public or private universities for due process, Title IX or other civil rights violations, breach of contract, or torts. Conrad O’Brien attorneys are actively engaged with Title IX issues beyond our client representations and work with other attorneys and legislators to affect change. We are often sought out by individuals, groups, and institutions for our opinion on how to work within the framework of the changing federal laws and guidance.
Disciplinary Hearing Advice and Representation
Conrad O’Brien represents college students nationwide who are subjected to campus investigations and disciplinary proceedings or are making a complaint after suffering from sexual assault or harassment, to ensure that each client understands the university’s process, seeks procedural safeguards, and is afforded a fair hearing. 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 attorneys also are experienced in working with students whose situations may be complicated by mental health concerns or the need for disability accommodations. When a student has been suspended, expelled from or otherwise disciplined by their colleges following campus disciplinary hearings for alleged sexual misconduct or other Student Code violations, our team helps the student and their families navigate the college disciplinary process. Our attorneys often first attempt to resolve the cases behind-the-scenes and avoid litigation and have successfully had student disciplinary findings vacated or modified by negotiating with universities on behalf of students and achieving settlements without litigation.
Title IX and Student Rights 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.
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.
Represented a male, African-American student at the University of Pennsylvania who was wrongly accused of sexual assault and subjected to an unfair, biased, and discriminatory disciplinary process. Filed a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against the University of Pennsylvania in federal court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania asserting claims under Title IX and Title VI, as well as common law claims for breach of contract and negligent infliction of emotional distress. To avoid a preliminary injunction hearing, the University agreed to stay the imposition of any sanction resulting from the internal disciplinary proceeding. The court recently denied the University’s motion to dismiss, allowing our client to proceed on claims for breach of contract and Title IX violations. Doe v. Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania, No. 2:16-cv-05088, 2017 WL 4049033 (E.D. Pa. Sept. 13, 2017).
Conrad O’Brien attorneys were successful in obtaining a ruling in California state court ordering the University of Southern California to set aside the suspension and expulsion of our client, a male student, for alleged nonconsensual sexual activity with two female students who claimed to have been too intoxicated to give consent. On September 15, 2017, Judge Richard L. Fruin, Jr. of the California Superior Court issued a decision finding that USC failed to provide a fair hearing to our client and that the decisions to suspend and expel him were not supported by the evidence. (See Statement of Decision Granting Petition for Writ of Mandate). Judge Fruin reasoned that USC denied John his due process rights to a fair proceeding under California state law because (among other shortcomings) it did not provide him with “an adequate opportunity … to test the credibility of the material witnesses in a limited adversarial hearing before the decision is made.” (Statement of Decision at 19). Doe v. Ainsley Carry and University of Southern California, Case No. BS 161569 (Los Angeles County Superior Ct., Sept. 15, 2017 unpublished decision).