A federal judge ruled that the University of Michigan must break from its sexual assault investigation policy and allow a student accused of rape to question his accuser during a live hearing back in July of 2018.
This ruling could impact laws across the nations by further establishing the right of people accused of rape to question the evidence against them. On top of that, the U.S. Department of Education is set to release its latest draft regulations for Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the federal gender discrimination law.
"[The university] essentially asks the court to sit back and wait for the investigator to issue findings against plaintiff before intervening in this action,” wrote U.S. District Judge Arthur Tarnow in his ruling. “But at this very moment, the university may be denying plaintiff due process protections to which he is entitled. The court cannot, and will not, simply stand by as the fruit continues to rot on the tree. This case is ripe for adjudication."
This ruling doesn’t explicitly give the person accused of rape to directly ask his accuser questions, but it gives him the opportunity to challenge the narrative. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit issued a similar ruling last year when it blocked a suspension of a student at the University of Cincinnati because he was not given the opportunity to question the other student who accused him of sexual assault.
"Everyone -- guilty or innocent -- must have access to the courtroom rights that are due to them," wrote Daniel Payne, an assistant editor for the conservative publication College Fix. "It is refreshing and hopeful to see a federal judge who understands this."
The original implementation of the guidance the Obama administration gave to colleges across the nation envisioned a hearing that would allow both the accused and the accuser to question the narrative of the other, but that was never introduced until the guidelines were rolled back earlier this year. The original "Dear Colleague Letter" did discourage direct questioning by either party because of the potential trauma this form of questioning could have on a victim of sexual assault. However, according to the President of Safety Advisors for Educational Campuses S. Daniel Carter stated that institutions took “shortcuts to justice”.