Thursday, January 17, 2019
Questioning the Required Cross-Examination of the Proposed Dept of Ed Guidelines on College Sexual Assault Cases
Suzanne Goldberg, Keep Cross-Examination Out of College Sexual Assault Cases
Requiring cross-examination in campus sexual-misconduct proceedings is among the key features of the Department of Education’s proposed Title IX reforms currently open for public comment. The department, relying on an oft-cited 1904 legal treatise, calls cross-examination "the greatest legal engine ever invented for the discovery of truth." Although this new mandate might seem at first like a good idea, a closer look shows otherwise.
The usual image of cross-examination includes trained lawyers asking precise, rigorous questions of individuals on the other side of a case and a judge ruling on well-crafted objections to improper questions. But campuses are not courtrooms, and the reality at most colleges and universities would look quite different if the proposed regulations take hold.
But the new regulations would change this by requiring colleges to allow each student’s adviser to do the questioning of the other student or anyone else involved in the case — not as a neutral party but as an adversary. This means that parent-advisers would have government-sanctioned authority to question their child’s accuser or alleged assailant, and a student could wind up cross-examining another student, even on the same small campus.