Can Attorneys Advocate At College Discipline Hearings?

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Last Updated on July 28, 2022 by Michelle Ball

By Michelle Ball, Sacramento California Expulsion, Special Education, sports/CIF, College, Education and School Attorney/Lawyer for Students since 1995

Is a university suspension or expulsion hearing fast approaching? Is the college really hammering the student involved and the whole thing is unfair? Can the student bring legal help to handle the hearing for them? Well….

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Students can bring a lawyer or another advisor to their discipline hearing

Lawyers Can Accompany University Students to Discipline Hearings

If a postsecondary student is attending their discipline hearing, and wants support, they usually are allowed to bring at least one person with them. This person is deemed the student’s “advisor.”

Most of the time, the student’s advisor can be an attorney, family member, advocate, or other support person of the student’s choice.

Attorneys Usually Cannot Speak at College Discipline Hearings

Unfortunately, colleges and universities set their own discipline rules, and they really don’t like attorneys barging in. As a result, they generally limit attorneys who act as student hearing advisors.

The attorney’s limited role as a student advisor, basically puts a muzzle on them, as far as the discipline hearing is concerned.

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College students have enough to worry about, let alone defending alleged wrongs

A student’s hearing advisor can only talk or confer with the college student at the hearing. The advisor cannot argue the student’s case, address the discipline panel or hearing officer, or question witnesses. The discipline advisor can basically sit there, observe the student’s hearing, take notes, and quietly advise the college student.

Colleges Want the Student to Represent Themselves

Why won’t postsecondary institutions let attorneys speak? The reasons they say are that they want the college student to have a stake in the matter, to express their own position, and to advocate for themselves. Sometimes universities say they want more collaboration or a more open process.

I don’t buy it.

I think colleges stop lawyers as we understand the rule breaches and legal violations committed by the colleges. Attorneys also usually know how to present a good case, and to argue the valid points, without getting sidetracked. They know when something is illegal.

Lawyers make the college process more difficult for college officials. I would want to exclude attorneys if I were a college also, as attorneys can help a student win. It is, however, inherently unfair.

What Can a Student Do?

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Attorneys can help college students prepare and quietly advise at discipline hearings

A university student can still bring an attorney with them. The student can also prepare for the hearing with their attorney, outlining all arguments, questions, and breaches, so the student can present them. The student can get help with pre-hearing documents and preparation.

So, all hope is not lost, but it is really irritating that colleges restrict students from having skilled representation. Students can still present a great case, but just have to do it themselves, with a legal cheerleader sitting handcuffed on the side.

Michelle Ball is a college student attorney and advocate who has assisted with discipline hearings, grade appeals, grievances, and many other issues in the postsecondary setting. Centrally located in Sacramento California, she can assist across the state, including in Guerneville, San Jose, Long Beach, and Davis.