Title IX Defense Blog

Practical Advice for the Defense of a Title IX or Campus Sexual Assault Proceeding

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What Questions Should You Expect in a Campus Disciplinary Proceeding?

QUESTIONS FOR YOU

In a disciplinary hearing, you should be prepared to answer questions about what happened. Recruit people—your parents, your friends, or anyone you trust—to ask you questions about what happened that night. Ask them to tell you how they think you reacted when you answer.

Your ability to handle questions will improve with practice. You wouldn’t play a soccer match or perform in a musical without practicing; testifying at a hearing is no different.

Have people ask you the most difficult questions they can. Try to think about the hardest part of the case. You’ll be better off if you get questions that you aren’t anticipating. It will slow you down and force you to think about what happened in different ways. You want to be challenged when you’re practicing more than when you’re in the moment.
You’ll also be better off if someone watches how you answer questions. Make sure your tone doesn’t change from when you give your statement to when you’re answering questions. It can be deadly if you go from empathetic and understanding in your statement to angry and defensive when the questions come.

QUESTIONS FOR YOUR ACCUSER

You will likely get to ask questions of your accuser. In general, there are some questions you want to make sure you ask and some you want to avoid. If the accuser willingly went to your room and can’t possibly deny that, it’s fair to ask about that. In general, if there are questions that draw out a part of the story that is helpful to you, so long as she can’t say anything damaging, then ask them.

There are two kinds of questions you don’t want to ask.

1. DON’T GIVE THE ACCUSER A CHANCE TO EXPLAIN HER SIDE.

Don’t ask questions that will get you burned. Basically, ask questions that force your accuser to stick to facts, not her explanations for facts. Don’t ask her questions about why she did things: that is never going to go your way. Despite what you may have learned from A Few Good Men, no one ever actually admits to ordering the Code Red.

2. DON’T ASK QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR GOOD EVIDENCE.

Second, don’t ask questions that allow your accuser to explain away evidence that is good for you. If you have great text messages that help establish your innocence, don’t ask any questions about them. If you have three witnesses who said they saw her at the party that night and thought she seemed completely sober, don’t ask her why what she’s saying conflicts with what the witnesses saw. Just wait for your closing statement and argue these things to the panel.

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