North Dakota Right to Counsel Bill Clears Key Hurdle
Last month, The Torch was pleased to report that a bipartisan bill was introduced in the North Dakota Legislative Assembly to provide students and student organizations at public universities the right to hire lawyers for representation in certain campus disciplinary hearings.
More good news: Earlier this week, an amended version of the bill was passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee and now heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee for a hearing on Tuesday morning. The bill states in part:
Any student enrolled at an institution under the control of the state board of higher education has the right to be represented, at the student’s expense, by the student’s choice of either an attorney or a nonattorney advocate, who may fully participate during any disciplinary proceeding or during any other procedure adopted and used by that institution to address an alleged violation of the institution’s disciplinary policies. This right only applies if the disciplinary proceeding involves a violation that could result in a suspension or expulsion from the institution. This right does not apply to matters involving academic misconduct.
The legislation is sorely needed in North Dakota, as illustrated by Caleb Warner’s fight for justice after he was wrongfully expelled for an alleged sexual assault. So far the bill has been endorsed by the Grand Forks Herald, by the University of North Dakota’s Student Senate, and in an opinion piece in the University of North Dakota’s student newspaper, the Dakota Student. FIRE is thrilled that the bill is progressing. We wish to thank its six sponsors, Senators Ray Holmberg (R), Kelly Armstrong (R), and Jonathan Casper (R); as well as Representatives Lois Delmore (D), Mary Johnson (R), and Diane Larson (R) for their advocacy on behalf of students’ rights. We look forward to reporting on its passage soon.