AV Preeminent 2018
Lead Counsel Rated
Justia Badge
AVVO Reviews
 AVVO Rating 10

A Title IX complaint can result in severe consequences, including loss of scholarships and dismissal from school.  A former student recently sued his military college after he was expelled for alleged sexual misconduct.

The plaintiff, identified in the unpublished Fourth Circuit opinion as John Doe, was a student at a state-incorporated military college in South Carolina.  A female student filed a complaint accusing him of sexual misconduct.  The school’s Commandant’s Board heard the complaint and ultimately found the plaintiff committed a violation in one of the three alleged incidents of sexual misconduct.  As a result, Doe lost his Marine scholarship and was dismissed from the school with leave to apply for readmission after a year.  He appealed, but the appeal was denied.

He filed suit against the college and several officials, alleging violation of his right to procedural due process and sex-based discrimination.  The district court granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss.

Continue reading

Washington law recognizes “committed intimate relationships,” (“CIRs”) and allows courts to equitably distribute property when people separate after living together in a marriage-like relationship and acquiring property that would have been considered community property if they were lawfully married.  In determining if a CIR existed, courts consider a number of factors, including the parties’ intent, the length of the relationship, whether the parties cohabited continuously, whether they pooled their resources for joint projects, and the purpose of the relationship.  In a recent case, a mother appealed a trial court’s judgment that she had not been in a CIR with her child’s father.

According to the appeals court’s opinion, the mother and her young child lived in a rental when the parties met.  The father owned his home and several acres, as well as a rental home.  The parties agreed to date exclusively in October or November of 2011.  The mother told the father she was pregnant in April 2012.  The mother claimed they had agreed to have a child, but the father denied discussing or wanting a child before the pregnancy.

The father claimed the mother wanted to live together because she was having difficulty paying her bills after changing jobs.  He said he thought it was too soon, but felt pressured due to the pregnancy and the mother’s expenses.  The trial court found they started living together around June 2012.  Continue reading

Washington domestic violence protection orders (“DVPOs”) protect abused spouses, romantic partners, and family and household members.  The court may order the DVPO for a fixed period of time, in many cases, one year.  The petitioner may seek a renewal of the DVPO and, under current RCW 7.105.405, the petitioner does not have a burden to prove they have “a current reasonable fear of harm. . .” Instead, the respondent has the burden to prove they will not resume acts of domestic violence.  In some cases, however, a DVPO may be inadvertently allowed to expire.  A former husband recently challenged a DVPO protecting his former wife and their children after the previous DVPO was allowed to expire.

The parties shared custody of their two children following their divorce in 2019.  According to the appeals court’s opinion, the ex-husband tried to force his way into the ex-wife’s home and injured her.  She sought a domestic violence protection order (“DVPO”).  The court issued a DVPO protecting the ex-wife and the children for one year.  The order also limited the ex-husband’s residential time with the children to a weekly four-hour supervised visit.  The ex-wife sought renewal in June 2021. Thereafter, the DVPO was extended through agreed short-term orders and ultimately expired in January 2022.

The ex-wife sought another DVPO in February 2022, alleging she allowed the prior order to expire accidentally.  She stated she was still afraid of the ex-husband and that she thought she and the children were only safe because of the protection order.  She also stated she had moved to modify the parenting plan to limit the ex-husband to supervised visits, but that motion was still pending.

Continue reading

Evidence obtained through an unlawful search is generally inadmissible in a Washington criminal case.  Both the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Washington Constitution offer protections against unlawful searches.  The Washington Constitution provides that “No person shall be disturbed in his private affairs, or his home invaded, without authority of law,” Article I, Section 7.  This section in some circumstances provides greater privacy protections than the Fourth Amendment.

A defendant recently challenged a search of his backpacks that were inside a vehicle.  The appeals court’s opinion states the defendant was a passenger in a vehicle during a traffic stop for suspicion of suspended license.  The officer recognized the defendant as having an outstanding warrant.  The officer ordered him to remain seated, but the defendant got out of the car and subsequently fled. The officer caught him and searched his pockets.  He found a pipe, cash, and a small amount of what he thought was heroin.

The driver told the officer the defendant asked her to stop at a gas station when the patrol car was following them.  She said he moved some bags to the back seat.  She pointed out two backpacks on the rear floorboard and another on the passenger side floorboard.  She gave permission to search the car “without limitation.”

Continue reading

In July 2022, the Department of Education (“Department”) proposed Title IX regulations that would undo a number of changes made during the Trump Administration.  The final rule was expected to be released this month. The Department recently provided an update, however, stating that the new anticipated date for the final Title IX rule is October 2023.

According to the Department, more than 240,000 public comments were submitted in response to the proposed regulations.  This is more than twice the number of comments the controversial 2018 proposed regulations received.  Under the proposed rule, sex-based discrimination and harassment would include gender identity, sexual orientation, sex characteristics, sex stereotypes, and pregnancy or related conditions.  Much of the attention around the proposed rule has been focused on the protections based on gender identity and sexual orientation, but there are other significant changes.

Victim advocates and education organizations have raised concerns over the mandatory reporting requirements, which require certain employees to report conduct that may constitute sex discrimination to the Title IX Coordinator.  The American Association of University Professors commented that such requirements negatively affect teaching and advising relationships.  Other commenters noted that the mandatory reporting requirements as written could be confusing to students and would likely discourage victims from seeking help and support.

Continue reading

Generally, hearsay is not admissible in a Washington criminal case, unless it meets an exception.  Hearsay is an out-of-court statement “offered in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted.” ER 801(c). Generally, hearsay is not admissible unless it meets a specific exception.  One exception is an “excited utterance.” Statements made while the speaker is still under the stress of the exciting event are considered more likely to be true because they are thought to be spontaneous.  The exception only applies if there has been “a startling event or condition,” the statement was made while the speaker was under the stress of the excitement from that event or condition, and the statement was related to the startling event or condition.  ER 803(2).  In determining if the excited utterance exception applies, the court may consider the speaker’s emotional state, the spontaneity of the statement, how long has passed, and if the speaker has had the opportunity to fabricate a story.  A defendant recently challenged the admission of a 911 call when the alleged victim had not testified at trial.

According to the appeals court’s opinion, the defendant and his ex-girlfriend had recently broken up at the time of the incident.  The defendant knocked on his ex-girlfriend’s door at about 10 and started crawling in her bedroom window when she did not answer.  She woke up and told him not to come in.  She then ran a neighbor’s apartment.  The defendant followed and knocked on the neighbor’s door.

The neighbor called 911.  The ex-girlfriend told the 911 operator the defendant jumped in her window while she was sleeping and was currently standing outside the door trying to open it.  She said he wanted to hurt her.

Continue reading

Washington child support is determined based on the Washington State Child Support Schedule.  A trial court may deviate from the standard child support calculation when it would be inequitable not to do so.  The trial court must specify its reasons for deviation or for denying a request for deviation in its findings of fact.  RCW 26.19.075 sets forth a non-exclusive list of reasons for deviation.  A husband recently challenged a child support deviation, arguing the trial court should instead have characterized that amount as spousal maintenance.

According to the appeals court’s opinion, the parties had three children together during their fourteen-year marriage.  The trial court found the wife was voluntarily underemployed and imputed a monthly net income of $2,048 to her, but she actually earned about $800 from her part-time job.  The husband had a net monthly income of $7,374.

The trial court determined the wife needed $3017.27 per month for her basic needs and expenses. The court determined she would receive that amount in combined spousal and child support.  Pursuant to the child support guidelines, the husband’s adjusted child support would be $1,566. The trial court acknowledged that spousal maintenance would change the income of the parties for determining child support.  To get to the intended total, the trial court adjusted the child support amount and ordered the husband to pay $2,017.27 in monthly child support and $1,000 in monthly spousal maintenance for a year.  The court indicated child support would be recalculated based on the parties’ income without spousal support after the spousal support ended in a year.

Continue reading

A Washington criminal defendant can raise a self-defense claim by offering some evidence that their actions occurred in circumstances of self-defense.  Once the defendant meets this low burden, the burden shifts to the state to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, the absence of self-defense.

According to the appeals court’s opinion, the juvenile’s mother came into the 15-year-old juvenile’s room and saw her hide a cell phone under the covers. The juvenile refused to give it to her mother, and they scuffled over it.  The juvenile ultimately kicked her mother twice.

The state charged the juvenile with fourth degree assault with notice of a domestic violence allegation.  The juvenile testified , saying, “. . . the only reason I kicked her was to . . . get her off of me,” and “. . . I kicked her because she was on my leg, and it hurt.  And—because I knew at that point I knew I wasn’t going to get the phone back . . . .”

Continue reading

A Washington Domestic Violence Protection Order (“DVPO”) may order a respondent to participate in state-certified treatment, and failure to do so may be considered if the petitioner seeks renewal. A respondent recently challenged renewal of a DVPO, arguing the court should have considered his relocation and participation in an out-of-state treatment program.

According to the appeals court’s opinion, the petitioner and respondent were a married couple living in Montana when they separated in 2018. After moving to Washington, the wife sought a Domestic Violence Protection Order (“DVPO”). A court commissioner issued a DVPO for one year, requiring treatment and counseling in a domestic violence perpetrator program approved by Washington’s Department of Social and Health Services (“DSHS”).

The petitioner sought renewal of the order in 2020.  The petition stated she still feared the respondent and future violent acts if the order was allowed to expire.  She also stated she was afraid to visit her daughter, who lived in the same town as the respondent, without a DVPO.  The respondent argued he was not a threat to the petitioner because he was still living in Montana.  He offered evidence he had completed a Montana domestic violence treatment program.

Continue reading

In a recent case, a female student of a Louisiana university sued multiple parties as a result of an off-campus rape by another student who had been accused of multiple prior sexual assaults and rapes.  A Louisiana federal court denied the university defendants’ motion to dismiss, finding the university had substantial control over the context of the assault even though it occurred off-campus.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was raped in 2021 while a student at the university. She did not know the last name of her attacker at the time.  A national newspaper reported on the accused student’s alleged sexual misconduct and the defendants’ failure to act.  The plaintiff filed suit for Title IX violations and negligence against the Board of Supervisors of the university the accused student previously attended, the Board of Supervisors of the university she attended with the accused student, and the local city-parish government.

The accused student had previously been banned from another university’s campus in Baton Rouge (“First University”) after two female students of that university separately reported him for rape. He subsequently transferred repeatedly between the university attended by the plaintiff (the “University”) and another university (“Second University”) under the same Board of Supervisors.

Continue reading

Contact Information