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Public Interest Law Professor John Banzhaf

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Date Rape - Innovation May Be Better Than Legislation, Says Law Prof John Banzhaf; Campus Keystone Cops v. New Sex-Assault Investigation/Adjudication Entities

As U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill [D-MO] prepares to release results of a survey about college sexual assaults, and then federal legislation based upon her survey, there may be reason to believe that a new innovative solution involving a new entity may be preferable to trying to make universities only marginally better at handling sex crimes, says public interest law professor John Banzhaf.

Washington, DC, July 10, 2014 --( For example, McCaskill's legislation reportedly will require mandatory training for those interviewing rape complainants. But almost half of the schools reported no forcible sex offenses on campus at all, and many more had only a handful, so most of the training could be wasted, argues Banzhaf.

"Very few colleges have enough reports annually to warrant even one full-time investigator, so most of this expensive training may be wasted trying to make poorly paid campus police or low level university functionaries into occasional criminal investigators, rather than utilizing people who already have the requisite training and experience to perform this delicate and all important function," says Banzhaf.

While probably no single university can afford to hire a full-time trained sex-offense investigator, universities in many large cities could collectively fund a citywide sex-offense investigation and adjudication institution. One central function of this separate entity would be to promptly and impartially investigate all reports of sex crimes involving students, using full-time trained and seasoned professionals such as former special victims detectives, retired sex-crimes prosecutors, etc. rather than university functionaries.

"Leaving all investigations of reported sex crimes on campus in the hands of experienced investigators employed by an outside entity would help insure that they were all carried out in a proper professional manner with no possibility of favoritism because the accused is a star athlete or the son of a alum with clout," says Banzhaf, noting that carefully utilizing proper investigative techniques is essential in discovering and preserving evidence in a form which is admissible and persuasive.

In addition to handling the entire investigation of date rape claims rather than just leaving them to untrained amateurs on campus, such a separate stand-alone entity could also adjudicate complaints which might have merit, suggests Banzhaf. This would be similar to arbitration agencies which help resolve disputes for businesses fairly and promptly, usually without the delays and cumbersome procedures used by courts - and, apparently in many situations, also by universities.

"The assistant professors or mid-level deans who usually adjudicate campus date rape cases have no experience, and may be swayed by their loyalty to the school or by their fear that an unpopular verdict could damage their academic careers. In contrast, using an outside entity employing retired lawyers, judges, sex crime prosecutors and others experienced in weighing this type of evidence, and free from even a hint of partiality or school loyalty, would help insure fairer treatment for both accused and accusers, and shield the university from claims of improper procedures or bias, argues Banzhaf.

According to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, the “renowned law professor who has begun following the issue. John F. Banzhaf III, professor of public interest law at George Washington University Law School, says he has noticed . . . more students suing their schools after being punished administratively for sexual assault.”

John F. Banzhaf III, B.S.E.E., J.D., Sc.D.
Professor of Public Interest Law
George Washington University Law School,
FAMRI Dr. William Cahan Distinguished Professor,
Fellow, World Technology Network,
Founder, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
2000 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20052, USA
(202) 994-7229 // (703) 527-8418 @profbanzhaf
Contact Information
George Washington University Law School
Public Interest Law Professor John Banzhaf
202 994-7229 // 703 527-8418

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