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Courts, Not Colleges, Should Prosecute Sex Crimes

By March 25, 2014September 25th, 2023No Comments

The March 7 Metro article “Suit fights new law on campus sex crimes” highlighted but one problem with colleges and universities seeking to play cop, prosecutor, defense counsel, judge and jury: The schools can’t even figure out what standard of proof to require. And the new federal Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act won’t solve that problem.

Schools need to stop interfering in the prosecution of violent crimes. As a former sex offense prosecutor who now sometimes represents students in college disciplinary matters, I know that sex crimes are among the most difficult of criminal cases to investigate and prosecute. The idea that university students and staff can manage such cases is demeaning to victims. University hearing boards lack rules of evidence, uniform standards of proof and legal representation for both accused and complainant. This lack of competent process endangers victims and is unfair to those accused of a crime that can potentially result in expulsion and academic or professional ruin.

What’s the solution? Colleges and universities should establish mandatory and comprehensive reporting requirements and then get out of the way. Protection for the complainant could be managed by the no-contact orders that usually accompany a criminal case. College conduct codes could then simply list sanctions accompanying a conviction for sexual assault.

These materials have been prepared by Cohen Seglias for informational purposes only and are not intended and should not be construed as legal advice.

Shan Wu

Author Shan Wu

Shan’s professional and personal background gives him a unique understanding of academic institutions and the criminal justice system. A former federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C., he is at home in D.C. Courts and very familiar with all of the Washington, D.C. law enforcement agencies, especially the Metropolitan Police Department. His parents were university professors so he grew up in a university environment. He understands the mindset of academic institutions. As a prosecutor, he supervised in the misdemeanor crime section. This is the section of the Washington, D.C. prosecutor’s office that handles most college student cases. His understanding of charging decisions and how judges view these cases is invaluable to his student clients and their families. Shan served as a federal prosecutor in the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia for over ten years. During his tenure there, now Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. appointed him to supervisory positions in the Misdemeanor Trial Section and also in a police corruption task force. His outstanding legal work in the government was recognized through numerous Special Achievement Awards from the Justice Department as well as awards conveyed by law enforcement agencies and community groups. From 1999-2000, Shan served as Counsel to Attorney General Janet Reno, advising her on criminal and civil investigations, E-Gov, E-Commerce (electronic signatures, internet gambling, internet telephony, privacy & public access issues in electronic court filings), congressional oversight, and legislative review. His responsibilities included serving as liaison to the FBI, DEA, Criminal Division, Executive Office of United States Attorneys, National Institute of Justice, and White House Counsel’s Office. Shan serves on the D.C. Bar Association’s Hearing Committee of the Board on Professional Responsibility and is a past president of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association for the Greater Washington, D.C. area. He is a 1988 graduate of Georgetown University Law Center, where he graduated Order of the Barristers, edited two law reviews, and was Co-Director of the Moot Court Program. He holds a B.A. in English Literature from Vassar College as well as a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College. Following law school, he clerked for the late Hon. Jerry Buchmeyer, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, and the late Eugene Wright, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He is admitted to practice law in the District of Columbia and Connecticut.

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