Lawyers: Students Accused of Rape Deserve Fair Hearings, Not Scarlet Letters

Campus rape trials are unjust.



Justin Dillon and Matt Kaiser—lawyers with the firm Kaiser, LeGrand & Dillon—have written an op-ed in The Washington Post explaining why the "Scarlet Letter" proposal to mark accused students' transcripts is a travesty of justice.

Kaiser and Dillon have represented dozens of students who were excused of sexual assault; no one should be under any illusions about the farcical nature of the campus judiciary proceedings, they write:

In the 2015 legislative year, as The Washington Post reported, 26 states – and now the District of Columbia – are considering laws addressing campus sexual assault.

Among others, the District of Columbia's version includes a "scarlet letter" provision. These laws would require colleges and universities to brand the transcripts of any student convicted of sexual misconduct with a note saying the student committed a sexual assault. The transcript note could never be removed.

So if the student is found responsible for sexual misconduct when he's 19, then applies for a job that requires his transcript 30 years later when he's married with two children, his transcript would still mark him as a rapist. One would hope that an employer would care a lot less 30 years later, but that company will surely have a concern about its own liability for sexual harassment from that employee. This transcript note could effectively end a person's career before it even starts.

If these transcript notes came in an unambiguous area of the law where the processes were full and fair, this scarlet letter may not be troubling. It's also ironic that these laws are being proposed at the same time President Obama is urging companies to hire people who were convicted in real courts of real crimes. There is a legitimate question about how long a person's past should haunt his future.

But campus sexual assault cases are not unambiguous, and the procedures in these cases are not fair.

Full op-ed here.

Kaiser and Dillon have come across a real tension on the left. At the same time that libertarians are allying with liberals (and conservatives) to demand saner sentencing laws and humane treatment for felons, certain factions on the left are fighting to further deprive accused students of due process. Many Democratic legislators would like to treat accused students more harshly than President Obama thinks convicted felons should be treated.

I interviewed Kaiser and Dillon for Reason here.