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Enforce the Charter

As a presiding administrative law judge of the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board, I devote a great deal of time to ensuring due process is observed by the 25 judges I supervise in our administrative hearings. Moreover, as a former deputy federal public defender and criminal defense lawyer, I have dealt with due process at an even higher level of scrutiny.

In 1997, Stanford students and faculty enacted the 1997 Student Judicial Charter. This document strictly defines the handling of all judicial cases at Stanford. I was a co-author, along with three students, of an extensive case study that followed a single Honor Code violation through the Stanford judicial process from start to finish at the Office of Community Standards.

That case study, discussed by The Stanford Daily on May 13, came to one principal conclusion—the Office of Community Standards was failing to process judicial actions at Stanford in conformance with the 1997 Student Judicial Charter.

When I assisted in the representation of students accused of Honor Code violations at Stanford, I was appalled by the lack of due process afforded them. Some of the most basic due process protections were discouraged or outright denied.

Students were advised that they should not only desist from contacting witnesses but they were denied the opportunity to question their own witnesses in the proceeding. They were denied the opportunity to confront their accuser. They were discouraged from objecting to the testimony against them and from cross-examining those witnesses. New issues were raised at the hearing that were not part of the scope of the accusation and for which no notice had been given.

Overall, the hearing evidenced a lack of impartiality and a lack of understanding of the most basic legal concepts that ensure a fair proceeding. No one involved in the day-to-day doings at the Office of Community Standards had a legal background or an apparent familiarity with elements of procedural due process.

The students outlined just some of the violations of the Student Judicial Charter in their letter to The Daily on May 22, 2013.

Our students had representatives to advise them even though the representatives were not allowed to appear or participate in the actual proceeding. I cannot imagine how unrepresented students would be able to navigate such a process at all, let alone successfully.

Under the 1997 Student Judicial Charter, every student is entitled to be represented while going through the process. Yet, many students who have come forward to us since The Daily’s article on the case study in May have suggested they are either intimidated from retaining an attorney, or are led to believe it would be in their best interests not to.

Further, it has become apparent that those who are not represented face an entirely different experience from those who have competent counsel who can protect their rights in every step of the process. This is happening now, in cases resolved or commenced in the spring of 2013.

I want to be clear on the issue that now confronts all of us at Stanford. It is not about changing the 1997 Student Judicial Charter. The Office of Community Standards has already done that.

The issue is going back to the 1997 Student Judicial Charter, and enforcing it strictly. It was designed to protect students, and that protection needs to be restored. Recent practices demonstrate what can happen when the Charter is ignored.

As a Stanford graduate who is proud of the excellence of most all that Stanford does, I was deeply disturbed by this lack of professionalism and fairness at the Office of Community Standards. In his letter from the Birmingham Jail in April 1963, Martin Luther King said, “An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Dr. King’s cautionary words ring just as true today, 50 years later. It is incumbent on those of us who care about Stanford and its continuing excellence that we take steps to prevent the miscarriage of justice that will surely come from the continuation of such a flawed judicial process at Stanford.

 John Martin, ‘80, practiced law as a deputy federal public defender and now is the presiding administrative law judge for the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board in the Inglewood, California Office of Appeals.

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