Search Results for ‘"dear colleague"’

FIRE backs suit over Dear Colleague letter

With help from FIRE (the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education), a former University of Virginia law student has sued the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights arguing that it violated the law in its notorious 2011 Dear Colleague letter requiring many campuses to roll back the procedural rights of students accused of sexual assault. The John Doe complainant argues that the department should at a minimum have put the policy shifts proclaimed in the letter through the notice-and-comment process prescribed for rulemaking, rather than in effect proclaiming them by decree through subregulatory guidance. The letter affected the student’s own case, he argues, because of comments from the retired judge deciding the case that she viewed the evidence as falling short of a clear and convincing threshold, the standard formerly in use, and ruled against him only because the university had complied with federal guidance by dropping its standard to preponderance of the evidence. [Susan Svrluga, Washington Post; Hans Bader, CEI]

Beyond the U. Va. scandal: will courts disallow feds’ rule by “Dear Colleague” letter?

The crackdown on college grievance procedures by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) paved the way for such developments as the administrative panic at the University of Virginia following Rolling Stone’s bogus assault article. I’ve got some thoughts at Cato about how the OCR crackdown grows out of a type of federal agency power grab — rule by “Dear Colleague” letter, sometimes known as sub-regulatory guidance or stealth regulation — that did not begin with this issue. As federal agencies have learned how to wield broad regulatory power without having to go through the formal regulatory process with its legal protections for affected parties, the courts have begun to apply skeptical scrutiny — which could open up one avenue of challenging the federal guidelines. Earlier on subregulatory guidance/stealth regulation here, here, etc. More: related from John Graham and James Broughel, Mercatus.

In two new executive orders, Trump reins in agency guidance

Some important (and promising) news that otherwise might be missed: last week President Trump signed executive orders curtailing the use of subregulatory guidance, such as Dear Colleague letters and informal field advice, to create binding law [Susan Dudley, Forbes (guidance should be shield for regulated, not sword for regulators), Michael P. DeGrandis, Reason; first (rules for development of guidance and transparency) and second (use of guidance in civil enforcement) executive orders; background here and here]

Higher education roundup

Title IX campus regs: the new proposal

The Education Department has published for public comment proposed changes in regulations to Title IX on campus discipline and sexual misconduct; its Obama administration predecessors had decreed major changes in the same law through a “Dear Colleague” letter without public notice or comment. The new proposals differ on some points from draft versions circulated earlier. Cathy Young and Robby Soave provide overviews, and Soave writes on how response from the ACLU left much to be desired. FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) has an initial statement (Samantha Harris), a more detailed analysis (Susan Kruth), and a letter to Senate Democrats correcting some misconceptions. And John McGinnis says both sides are getting it wrong: the feds shouldn’t be regulating college misconduct codes in the first place [Law and Liberty]

U.S. Department of Justice: We’re ending regulation by guidance

The U.S. Department of Justice, November 17 [press release/memo]:

Today, in an action to further uphold the rule of law in the executive branch, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memo prohibiting the Department of Justice from issuing guidance documents that have the effect of adopting new regulatory requirements or amending the law. The memo prevents the Department of Justice from evading required rulemaking processes by using guidance memos to create de facto regulations.

In the past, the Department of Justice and other agencies have blurred the distinction between regulations and guidance documents. Under the Attorney General’s memo, the Department may no longer issue guidance documents that purport to create rights or obligations binding on persons or entities outside the Executive Branch….

“Guidance documents can be used to explain existing law,” Associate Attorney General Brand said. “But they should not be used to change the law or to impose new standards to determine compliance with the law. The notice-and-comment process that is ordinarily required for rulemaking can be cumbersome and slow, but it has the benefit of availing agencies of more complete information about a proposed rule’s effects than the agency could ascertain on its own. This Department of Justice will not use guidance documents to circumvent the rulemaking process, and we will proactively work to rescind existing guidance documents that go too far.”

This is an initiative of potentially great significance. For many decades, critics have noted that agencies were using Dear Colleague and guidance letters, memos and so forth — also known variously as subregulatory guidance, stealth regulation and regulatory dark matter — to grab new powers and ban new things in the guise of interpreting existing law, all while bypassing notice-and-comment and other constraints on actual rulemaking. To be sure, many judgment calls and hard questions of classification do arise as to when an announced position occupies new territory as opposed to simply stating in good faith what current law is believed to be. But the full text of the memo shows a creditable awareness of these issues. Note also, even before the Justice memo, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s statement in September, on revoking the Obama Title IX Dear Colleague letter: “The era of ‘rule by letter’ is over.”

Another notable pledge in the DoJ press release:

The Attorney General’s Regulatory Reform Task Force, led by Associate Attorney General Brand, will conduct a review of existing Department documents and will recommend candidates for repeal or modification in the light of this memo’s principles.

Note also this recent flap over certain financial regulations and the possibility that they may have been issued without notice to Congress, which could preserve Congress’s right to examine and block them under the terms of the Congressional Review Act.

Campus climate roundup

  • Prof. Laura Kipnis, previously investigated by Northwestern over an essay she wrote saying there are too many Title IX investigations, wrote a book about the experience and that touched off yet another Title IX investigation of her [Jeannie Suk Gersen, The New Yorker]
  • Groups demand that outspoken social conservative Prof. Amy Wax not be allowed to teach first-year civil procedure at University of Pennsylvania Law School [Caron/TaxProf] How to evaluate claims that professors who say controversial things must step away from the classroom because they can’t be trusted to treat/grade students fairly? [Eugene Volokh]
  • Meanwhile, co-author of “bourgeois culture” op-ed, Larry Alexander of the University of San Diego, finds his dean distinctly unsupportive [Tom Smith, Caron/TaxProf roundup and more]
  • “Stay Woke” and allyship: insider view of American University’s new required first-year diversity courses [Minding the Campus] So revealing that an AAUW chapter would celebrate cancellation of this American U event [Elizabeth Nolan Brown]
  • Anonymous denunciation makes things better: president of Wright State University in Ohio “is encouraging students to anonymously report any violence and hate speech that might occur on campus.” [AP/WOUB] Student protesters called on Evergreen State “to target STEM faculty in particular for ‘antibias’ training” [Heather Heying, WSJ]
  • From this excerpt, upcoming Shep Melnick book on Title IX, OCR and federal control of colleges sounds top-notch [Law and Liberty] What to expect as Education Department reconsiders its former Dear Colleague policies [KC Johnson and Stuart Taylor, Jr., Weekly Standard]

September 27 roundup

  • Welcome news: U.S. Department of Education withdraws notorious Dear Colleague letter on Title IX and misconduct accusations [Hans Bader, CEI; ABA Journal]
  • Kaspersky Lab turns tables, forces E.D. Tex. patent claimant to pay to end case [Joe Mullin, ArsTechnica] Following unanimous SCOTUS ruling easing fee awards for ill-grounded patent litigation, firm told to “pay $1.6 million in attorney’s fees for filing an unwarranted patent lawsuit against a competitor.” [same, Octane Fitness vs. Icon]
  • Activist litigation with taxpayer imprimatur: “University Of North Carolina Law School’s Civil Rights Center Closes Following Board Of Governors Vote” [Paul Caron/ TaxProf, Bainbridge, earlier]
  • Another positive review for Ben Barton and Stephanos Bibas’s Rebooting Justice [Jeremy Richter, earlier]
  • Appeals court rejects constitutional challenge to North Carolina homewrecker tort (“alienation of affection”) [ABA Journal, Eugene Volokh, earlier]
  • Social engineering often seen as intrinsically anti-liberty. Rightly so? [Cato Unbound: Jason Kuznicki, Alex Tabarrok and others]

DeVos, Title IX, and sex on campus, cont’d

Part II of Emily Yoffe’s investigation for The Atlantic is if anything more explosive than the first: the campus assault survivor movement promotes concepts of the effect of trauma on memory (contradictory, fragmentary, belatedly-retrieved and even suggestion-induced memories ought not be discounted as forensically probative) that replicate key elements of the repressed childhood memory/dissociation scandal of a generation past (“believe the victims”). And Part III and last: What role does race play?

Debra Saunders quotes me in her new column on Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s new decision to reconsider the Dear Colleague and Blueprint policies of the Obama years: [Las Vegas Review-Journal/syndicated]:

Their decision [four Harvard law professors’] to release this memo, said Walter Olson, a senior fellow at the Libertarian-leaning Cato Institute, sends the message that if you want to defend the policy, “you’re not going to have to argue with Libertarians and conservatives” only, you are going to have to argue with left-leaning legal scholars who also care about fairness and due process….

“So much momentum has built up for federally driven changes in campus discipline and rules, so much momentum for unreasonableness,” Olson said, but the unfairness was so striking that it brought together feminists, Libertarians and Trump supporters.

Still, he added, “It took a great deal of courage for [Education Secretary Betsy DeVos] to do this. It would have been easy for her to find some way to dodge it, or postpone it.”

More accounts of discipline at particular campuses: Jesse Singal, New York magazine (USC, Matt Boermeester case, putative victim denies abuse); Nicholas Wolfinger, Quillette (University of Utah).

Yes, feds need to rethink campus sexual misconduct policies

A series of tweets I did about Thursday’s major announcement on Title IX policy from Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos:

I went on to explain that it all starts with the Department of Education’s OCR (Office for Civil Rights) 2011 Dear Colleague letter, and the further guidance that followed, which I wrote up here.

That’s a quote by Yoffe from a California Law Review article by Jacob Gersen and Jeannie Suk Gersen previously noted in this space here and here.

The courageous Harvard Law professors who called for a rethink of the Obama-era policy — Janet Halley, Elizabeth Bartholet, Jeannie Suk Gersen and Nancy Gertner — were profiled in a recent issue of The Crimson and in earlier coverage in this space here and here.

More coverage of DeVos’s speech and initiative, in which she pledged to use appropriate notice-and-comment methods rather than Dear Colleague guidance to introduce changes (“The era of ‘rule by letter’ is over”): Christina Hoff Sommers/Chronicle of Higher Education, Benjamin Wermund/Politico, Jeannie Suk Gersen/New Yorker, KC Johnson and Stuart Taylor, Jr./WSJ and cases going against universities, Johnson/City Journal, Bret Stephens/NYT (“no campus administrator was going to risk his federal funds for the sake of holding dear the innocence of students accused of rape”), Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, Hans Bader/CEI, Scott Greenfield and more (no basis in law to begin with), Robby Soave/Reason and more.