Chuck Lanehart is celebrating a positive verdict for a student in a hard-fought Title IX hearing. His client was accused of sexual assault and assault domestic violence with strangulation in a Texas Tech University Title IX hearing.
Importance of Cross Examination in Title IX Hearings
Under new Title IX rules, Chuck was allowed to cross-examine the complainant, and quite effectively. These guidelines established by the U.S. Department of Education went into effect in August of 2020. They allow the attorney of the accused to question statements of the complainant and witnesses for accuracy and credibility during a live hearing.
Cross examination requirements have gone through several changes since then, between the Obama, Trump and Biden administrations. In 2020,
“If a party or witness does not submit to cross-examination at the live hearing, the decision-maker(s) must not rely on any statement of that party or witness in reaching a determination regarding responsibility.”
An updated ruling in 2021 now allows for witnesses and other parties to submit statements, police reports, testimony, text messages and more without cross examination. The other party or witness has a right to refuse to be cross-examined.
In this case the complainant agreed to be cross examined, which was helpful for the accused.
Cooperating with Title IX Investigations
Even though there was difficult physical evidence to overcome in the case, the panel found Chuck’s client “not responsible.
Initially, the client had appeared without legal counsel for the investigator’s interview and answered all the investigator’s questions. Luckily, his story held up with the aid of a favorable polygraph report showing his honesty in believing the sexual activity was consensual.
Since his case may still be pursued as a criminal case, the client refused to answer any questions of the Title IX panel, on advice of counsel.
Similarities & Differences of Title IX Hearings to Criminal Trials
Title IX hearings require a different burden of proof – preponderance of the evidence. In contrast, criminal cases require a higher burden of proof – beyond a reasonable doubt. For these reasons, winning a Title IX hearing for the accused rarely leads to a criminal trial.
Another difference in Title IX hearings are the submission of polygraph tests as evidence. Most Title IX cases have limited physical evidence and instead rely on testimony, text messages, conflicts of consent and intent of the accused. For these reasons, lie detector tests are admissible in Title IX hearings and are common.
Finally, Title IX rules and requirements change frequently with presidential elections. While changes to state criminal laws do happen annually, Title IX guidelines are revised federally for college students and employees nationwide. Recently, the Biden Administration proposed several changes from making live hearings optional, to allowing schools to pursue off campus incidents to keeping cross examination requirements as optional. These changes will likely continue to be revised and may even be appealed depending on majorities in Congress.
While Title IX Hearings do not deliver a punishment of jail time or prison, the accusations and decisions made by panels are damaging to a defendants reputation. Punishments often include suspension, expulsion, loss of scholarships and could lead to criminal charges. For these reasons, it is recommended to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Title IX cases. Chuck Lanehart and Fred Stangl have a history working with college students to employees of Texas Tech University.
Testimonial from Clients Mother
I wanted to reach out to you to let you know how VERY much we appreciate you. Your experience and guidance clearly got us through this matter. I am sorry that I ever doubted your commitment to case. I think the ‘mom nerves‘ just got to me. & I have been very fortunate in our lives with our sons and this was by far the most serious, scary time we have had. Thanks for leading us through it with so much knowledge and expertise...and patience.
I shared today‘s outcome with and expressed my sincere thanks to her as well for putting us in touch. Our family was very fortunate that you agreed to take this case and we know that. We will not forget it and will impart to his good fortune in having you on his team as well.
Thank you very much, sir.
I know we will have additional communications regarding the DA‘s decisions going forward, but I really wanted to say thank you TODAY.
Please take care.