Leahy scraps provision in anti-domestic violence bill following complaints

November 11, 2011

WASHINGTON – Sen. Patrick Leahy will scrap a provision in draft legislation reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act following complaints that it would compromise due-process protections for college students accused of sexual harassment or violence.

“Because of the feedback he has received concerning this proposal, he does not plan to include it in the bill he later will introduce,” Erica Chabot, spokeswoman for the Senate Judiciary Committee, said this week.

Leahy, D-Vt., is the committee’s chairman.

His draft measure would have required federally funded colleges and universities to apply a lower standard of proof — a “preponderance” of evidence rather than “clear and convincing” evidence — in cases of alleged domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. The provision would codify controversial guidance from federal education officials.

Academic, civil libertarian and victims groups said it would undermine the constitutional rights of people accused of campus crimes.

“These provisions are fatally flawed and do not belong in federal law,” Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, said on Oct. 31. “Reducing protections for students who are accused of serious misconduct will not increase justice.”

A group called “Stop Abusive and Violent Environments” issued an Oct. 27 news release headlined, “Leahy Bill would turn every college male into a rape suspect.”

“If Sen. Leahy’s version is passed, we can expect travesties of justice at every college in the nation,” said Phillip Cook, a spokesman for the group.

Cases: U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights April 4, 2011, Guidance Letter Reduces Due Process Protections