Senator scrutinizes claims by Judicial Affairs co-chair

April 26, 2012, 3:00 a.m.

Michele Dauber, Stanford law professor and co-chair of the Judicial Affairs Committee, made misleading statements to an assembly of student representatives last Wednesday regarding the new Alternative Review Process (ARP) for sexual assault cases on campus. ASSU Senator Ben Laufer ‘12 said at the Senate’s Tuesday meeting, at which Dauber was not present, that he felt she “misled to the point where she even actually might have lied to us.” Laufer later apologized for saying Dauber may have lied.

The misleading statement came when Dauber was discussing how sexual assault cases handled by Judicial Affairs are civil cases, which she incorrectly said never require unanimous agreement among jurors.

“There is no such thing as a unanimous requirement in any civil case anywhere, ever,” Dauber told the assembly last week. “We just don’t have unanimous requirements in civil cases.”

According to a Department of Justice Statistics Special Report on civil justice in state courts from 2004, 27 states require unanimous convictions in civil cases. Only 11 require a three-fourths majority and all others, except for Montana, require a higher percentage of agreement (Montana only requires two-thirds agreement).

Dauber responded in an email to The Daily that the 2004 report is accurate, but warned of intricacies in the legal process, as different courts have different rules across states. No such nuance or qualification was included in her original statement at the meeting.

In addition, Dauber said that by “we,” she was referring to the State of California, which she felt was clear given Stanford’s location. Laufer, Senator Alon Elhanan ‘14 and Stanford Daily Senate reporter Julia Enthoven ‘15 all stated that no such clarification was conveyed during that part of the meeting. All three stated that they were under the impression Dauber was speaking generally about the United States.

The ARP represents a change in the Judicial Affairs Committee’s procedure regarding trials of students who are accused of sexual assault, sexual violence, relationship violence and stalking.

Under the new ARP, three of the four “reviewers” would be required to agree in order to decide a student’s case, which is consistent with current University policy. The Senate and Graduate Student Council (GSC) are currently deliberating whether to approve the pilot program ARP.

Dauber commented on The Daily website, accusing the publication of publishing false accusations against faculty members after The Daily included Laufer’s quote in a Wednesday article (“Senate debates use of leftover funds,” April 25). Dauber wrote in the comments that the information she gave the Senate and Graduate Student Council was “entirely correct.”

A 2004 report from the American Bar Association states that, “In civil cases, jury decisions should be unanimous wherever feasible. A less-than-unanimous decision should be accepted only after jurors have deliberated for a reasonable period of time and if concurred in by at least five-sixths of the jurors.”

The report qualifies that a lesser number of jurors is acceptable if agreed upon by both parties.

Laufer, Elhanan and Enthoven all said that the overall message of Dauber’s comments was that nowhere in the United States are civil cases required to be decided by unanimous vote.

It is unclear whether the ARP seeks to conform to Federal or California guidelines or employs a hybrid of the two. The recommendation to lower the standard of proof to preponderance of evidence came from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights, yet federal guidelines for civil jury cases require unanimous agreement.

In California a simple three-fourths majority is required, though juries on California civil cases consist of 12 jurors, while Judicial Affairs currently uses four jurors. No state currently uses four jurors for civil court cases.


Brendan is a senior staff writer at The Stanford Daily. Previously he was the executive editor, the deputy editor, a news desk editor and a writer for the news section. He's a history major originally from New Orleans.

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