Numerous college and university student disciplinary codes don’t allow students to have a lawyer present at a student disciplinary hearing. The colleges and universities may argue that this prohibition is allowable because their proceedings are not criminal prosecutions and the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution’s right to counsel applies only to criminal cases. U.S. Const. amend. XI.
These prohibitions are questionable from a constitutional perspective (more on that to come!) and incompatible with a just and fair process. Why should students facing suspension or expulsion be denied the right to have the assistance of a lawyer in the very hearing that will determine their punishment?
The prohibitions typically extend beyond lawyers and bar the presence of anyone not a member of the college or university community.
These aspects of the prohibition against student defense lawyers arise from a “don’t air your dirty laundry” mentality that is unacceptable. Living and working on a college campus doesn’t imbue a person with the ability and experience to investigate and assist defending against student conduct violation allegations.
So how can a student defense lawyer assist when a school bars lawyers? Preparation.
Most legal cases are won in the preparation and not in the courtroom. Accordingly, the most important part of defending a student against college/university disciplinary charges is professional preparation.
Colleges and universities may role-play being cop/lawyer/judge and jury, but our student defense clients have too much at stake to play along.
*Anthony Lewis, Gideon’s Trumpet. New York: Vintage Books/Random House, 1964. tells the story of Clarence Earl Gideon who wrote the United States Supreme Court a handwritten letter from jail that sparked the landmark decision establishing the right to counsel for criminal defendants. Gideon v. Wainright, 372 U.S. 335 (1963). The title references the Biblical story of Gideon’s successful attack strategy using horns and loud noises to feign the presence of a larger enemy. Judges 7:16-22/
These materials have been prepared by Cohen Seglias for informational purposes only and are not intended and should not be construed as legal advice.