June 2011 Archives

June 10, 2011

OIG Investigations and Federal Employees

Federal employees are in a vulnerable position for an investigation by an Office of Inspector General (or OIG).  Basically, an OIG investigation can run in two different directions.  Each has it's own dangers that a federal employee who hears from an OIG Agent needs to be aware of.

If an OIG Agent is investigating a criminal violation of law, then the federal employee has the risk of being prosecuted.  If the OIG Agent thinks he or she can prove that the federal employee committed a crime, and the OIG Agent can convince an Assistant United States Attorney to bring a case, then the federal government is bringing its resources to bear to convict the federal employee of a crime.  Often, this means that the government wants a felony conviction, and it can quickly mean that prison time is a real risk.

If, however, the Assistant United States Attorney decides that a criminal prosecution is not warranted, either because there isn't enough evidence of a crime, or because what happened isn't serious enough to warrant a prosecution, or because what the OIG Agent is investigating isn't a violation of a criminal law, then the federal employee is still not in a good position, because he or she can lose his or her job.  If criminal charges aren't an option, the OIG Agent can require that a federal employee give an interview.  If the employee doesn't give the interview, then that can be a basis for a disciplinary action.

Federal employees face unique risks.  They're conduct has its own law enforcement offices that are set up to investigate - aside from government contractors, OIG Agents spend a lot of time looking at federal employees. 

For a federal employee who is under scrutiny by an OIG Agent, it is important to know what is happening, and what needs to be done to protect your job, and, possibly, your freedom.

June 7, 2011

Matt Teaches a Course on Campus Sexual Assault Defense

I have represented, successfully, students at Universities in the greater D.C. area who have been charged in internal campus disciplinary proceedings with sexual assault.  In the cases I've handled, no prosecutor would take these cases - the evidence is simply not strong enough to support a conviction.  Moreover, the complaining witnesses have an interest in not having anyone outside of the campus environment look into what happened.

The cases I've handled arise out of romantic relationships that are ending badly, or out of nights out drinking.  There is no question that the couple had sex, the only issue is whether the sex was consensual.

What's challenging about these cases is that schools are not obligated to provide the same rights to their students that people who are accused of a crime in a normal court have.  Normally, the school writes a code of student conduct that defines how these procedures will work.  Sometimes the school doesn't follow its own procedures.  This can seriously undermine a student's ability to defend himself.

Recently, I gave a talk for lawyers on how to represent students accused of sexual assault on campus.

Here's an ad for the lecture:

In the full talk, I explain how there are a number of federal laws that apply to these kinds of situations, and how lawyers who have students who have been accused of these kinds of campus charges can defend their clients. 

This kind of situation can be a minefield, and schools are under tremendous pressure to take action when a sexual assault is reported.  It can be very difficult for a lawyer to effectively help a client, since the rules are not familiar, and the players have a different set of background notions of what should happen.

And, in these cases, the stakes are incredibly high.  A person falsely convicted of sexual assault on campus can have a notation on their transcript that can follow them for life.  It can completely alter a student's educational future, which, in turn, can change the course of a student's life.