Stanford Lawyer Released After Criticism of University’s Sexual Assault Proceedings

The criticism played a role in Stanford University's decision to release the lawyer.
Published: February 14, 2017

A lawyer handling student sexual assault complaints at Stanford University was released by the school after making comments critical of its Title IX process.

Former Stanford lawyer Crystal Riggins, who exclusively represents students accusing others of sexual misconduct in university disciplinary proceedings, was released by the school Jan. 31.

Stanford administrator Lauren Schoenthaler informed Riggins that the school would no longer be using her services in an email. Schoenthaler cited Riggins’ comments to the New York Times as a factor in the universities decision, calling them “disappointing.”

“Given your stated lack of confidence [in Stanford’s Title IX process], it does not make sense for the university to continue to refer our students to you,” the email stated.

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Riggins had been one of six “Stanford-sponsored Title IX attorneys” on retainer for the university. The lawyers provide guidance for students involved in sexual assault complaints.

Under a current pilot program, the university will pay for up to nine hours of legal fees on behalf of student accusers as well as the accused.

In December, Riggins told the Times she disapproved of student discipline policies that set a relatively high bar for finding students responsible for misconduct.

According to the Stanford Student Title IX Process, a unanimous ruling is required by its Hearing Panel based on the preponderance of evidence standard in order to punish a student.

“It is frustrating because universities should be getting this right, and they are not, and the idea that they can keep pushing this under the rug doesn’t make the campus any safer, as we keep seeing these incidents come to light,” Riggins told the Times in December. “The [student discipline] process is complex and takes a long time. It is very difficult to get a 3-0 decision from a panel, and these young women are terrified and traumatized and just want it done.”

Stanford is currently under investigation from the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights for its handling of sexual assault cases.

Riggins says she stands by her comments and will continue to represent student accusers in two ongoing cases at Stanford, according to the Times.

Stanford defended its decision to remove Riggins.

“We want to ensure that this legal support is fair to both parties, and it would be unconscionable and unfair to refer any student to an attorney who does not have confidence in our process,” Stanford spokesperson Lisa Lapin said in a statement.

Next Up: University Officials Give Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Tips (VIDEO)

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