In ‘The Hill,’ FIRE’s Cohn Discusses North Carolina’s Right to Counsel Law

By on September 11, 2013

Congressional newspaper The Hill has published an op-ed by FIRE Legislative and Policy Director Joe Cohn this afternoon, explaining the importance of North Carolina’s recently passed right-to-counsel law.  FIRE worked with the North Carolina legislature to pass this law, the first of its kind in the country. The legislation guarantees that college students may use a lawyer or a non-attorney advocate to help them navigate campus disciplinary proceedings. (This right does not extend to student-run honor committees or hearings concerning academic misconduct such as plagiarism.)  As Joe explains, the North Carolina law fills a critical gap that still exists in 49 other states: Prior to this new law, students facing lengthy suspensions or expulsions typically faced these charges alone—or, if lucky, with an advisor who was nevertheless forbidden from actively participating in the hearing. Outside of North Carolina, eighteen-year-old students continue to be expected to competently represent themselves in proceedings, arguing against deans, administrators, and sometimes lawyers, many with decades of experience and advanced degrees. There is no way to make such a system fair to the accused without the right to representation. Read Joe’s full op-ed to understand why FIRE is championing this very important cause.