U.S. Department of Education Proposes New Title IX Guidelines Giving Accused Students More Due Process Protections

Recently, the United States Department of Education released a proposal to overhaul the broken non-academic misconduct system that is in place at most colleges and universities.  Universities routinely attempt to regulate the behavior of students–even for events that occur off-campus–by imposing punishments up to expulsion for things such as cyberbullying, hazing, and sexual misconduct.  Usually the punishment is noted on the student’s transcript, making it nearly impossible to gain admission to another decent school.

The biggest proposed change for students who find themselves mired in the often one-sided investigation and adjudication process at college?  A more level playing field. 

Among the biggest changes proposed is the right to have an advisor cross-examine the accuser in a live hearing setting.  Currently, some universities deny this basic right.  Without the ability to question the accuser, an accused student is left in the position of “proving innocence,” instead of the university “proving guilt.”

If you or your son or daughter has been accused of misconduct by a university, it is important to secure trusted counsel as soon as possible.  The stakes are too high, and the process is tilted in favor of the university.  Make sure you have an advisor who understands how to protect your rights and keep your education on track.

 

 

Lawrence Property Tax Appeals

Many Lawrence homeowners recently found out their property taxes have increased significantly.  Some properties jumped 20%, leaving affected families with a large, unexpected cost added to their yearly budget.

Commercial properties were also hit hard, leaving businesses scrambling to generate additional revenue needed to balance their books.

So what can you do?

Petefish attorneys have assisted clients by appealing Douglas County’s valuations, and lowering the appraisal value of their property, which in turn reduces the property tax owed to the county.

The process involves initiating the appeal within applicable time limits, and providing information that will support the client’s position, which can include: comparable sale, lease, or capitalization data; listing information for sale of the property; pending sale offers; any paid appraisal of the property; cost estimates regarding maintenance; and other documentation that supports a decreased valuation.  Once the county reviews the information submitted by the property owner, a hearing will be scheduled with the Douglas County Appraiser’s Office.

Contact a Petefish attorney today to discuss whether a property tax appeal makes sense for your commercial or residential property.

Small Businesses & Estate Plans Impacted by 2018 Trump Tax Cuts

Most people are aware that the recent tax reforms have implications for personal income tax liability.  What most people don’t know is that new changes in the tax code can affect small business owners and many estate plans as well.

Small Businesses:

The new tax bill changes the rules for  pass-through entities (LLCs, sole proprietorships, S Corporations, and partnerships), which make up approximately 90% of all businesses in the U.S.  In the new bill, 20% of “qualified business income” is deductible.  However, there are many new restrictions that small-business owners need to comply with.  Our attorneys have assisted in the formation of hundreds of business entities, each tailored to our clients’ specific needs.

Estate Planning:

The new bill changes the tax rates for estates and generation-skipping exemptions, with these provisions scheduled to sunset in 2025.  For families and individuals that already have an estate plan in place, now is a good time to schedule an appointment to review and update that plan.  For those who don’t currently have an estate plan in place–e.g. a will, trust, or other transfer mechanism–the new provisions might make now an ideal time to consider creating one.

Contact a trusted attorney at the Lawrence, Kansas law firm, Petefish, Immel, Hird, Johnson, Leibold & Sloan, LLP, to guide you through the process of securing your future, with options for your small business or family estate plan needs. 

 

 

 

 

College Students Accused of Misconduct Deserve Greater Due Process According To U.S. Department of Education

When most people hear the term “Title IX,” they think of the law that requires universities to offer comparable athletic opportunities for both male and female students.

However, since 2011, Title IX has been in the news for a far different reason.  It all started with the Obama administration’s “Dear Colleague” letter, which told universities that receive federal funding to crack down on matters of sexual misconduct on campuses, under the auspices of upholding language in the law that prohibits discrimination in any educational program on the basis of sex.  The letter mandated that the lowest possible standard of proof should be used by the university in deciding whether a sexual offense has been committed, and to accelerate the final decision to within 60 days of receiving a report.

Faced with either complying with the directives or losing federal funding, universities began “throwing the book” at those accused of sexual misconduct on campus.  And those accused are overwhelmingly male.

On September 22, 2017, the “Dear Colleague” letter was revoked by the U.S. Department of Education, and replaced with new guidance that includes allowing universities to apply a heightened standard of review, “clear and convincing evidence.”

Despite the recent changes, many legal scholars still feel that most universities’ student affairs staff are poorly equipped to handle such matters, and that those accused are being deprived of their Due Process rights.

Often, the university employee who is conducting the relatively limited investigation is the same person who decides innocence or guilt, and the same person who imposes sanctions, up to expulsion. Other universities may employ a hearing panel to decide matters that may involve suspension or expulsion. And in most cases, the employees are not trained in the law, yet are armed with the authority to take away a student’s right to an education.  Although the Department of Education has withdrawn the 2011 Dear Colleague Letter, universities may still operate using the lower standard of proof required by the 2011 Dear Colleague Letter.

The attorneys at Petefish Law have experience defending students unfairly accused of misconduct in colleges and universities.  Before you agree to speak to the university “investigator,” contact our office to schedule a consultation, so we can protect your rights and keep you on track to get the degree you are working for.

Administrative Assistant

Petefish Law is seeking a full time Administrative Assistant.  Duties include word processing, filing, office organization, answering phone, greeting clients and many others.  Applicants must have excellent computer skills.  Competitive compensation, depending upon experience.

Terence Leibold Elected as Vice President of Douglas County Bar Association, Matt Donnelly to serve as CLE Coordinator

Petefish attorneys have long recognized the uniqueness of Lawrence, Kansas and helped to ensure the continued vitality of this community through their service to local organizations.

Recently, firm partner Terence Leibold was elected by his peers to serve as Vice-president of the Douglas County Bar Association for the 2017-18 term.  Mr. Leibold previously served as Secretary.  Associate Matt Donnelly volunteered to serve as the Douglas County Bar’s Continuing Legal Education coordinator, which offers educational seminars to local attorneys on a variety of topics.

And firm partner Rick Hird recently concluded his nearly decade-long tenure as a Member of the Board of the Douglas County Bar Association.  Rick continues to assist, however, with many other local organizations.

It all goes back to one of the firm’s earliest members, Olin Petefish, who graduated from KU Law in 1935, practiced his entire career in Lawrence, and often represented the University of Kansas.  Based on his record of service over nearly 70 years, Mr. Petefish became the namesake of The Olin Petefish Research Award in the field of Basic Sciences at KU.  This award is given in recognition of research achievement in the basic sciences to an individual who may be described as having had a major and substantial impact and who has been of national and/or international interest. In 2001, his wife, Mary Ruth Petefish established the Olin K. & Mary Ruth Petefish School of Law Scholarship, which continues to assist students on the basis of financial need and academic merit.  And of course there is Petefish Drive near the Dole Institute of Politics on KU’s west campus, yet another tribute to Olin Petefish’s dedication to serving the Lawrence community.

In the same spirit of giving back that Mr. Petefish valued so strongly, our attorneys continue pledging their time to the local community.

 

KU to Allow Concealed Carry of Weapons, KU Basketball Probably Not

On July 1, 2017, barring any changes from the Kansas Legislature, a new law will go into effect requiring the University of Kansas to allow the concealed carrying of firearms in virtually all buildings on its campus, including classrooms.  This right to carry applies to anyone who is at least 21 years of age, and no training or certification of any kind is required.

Last week, a Kansas Senate committee considered a bill that would have kept concealed guns out of all public colleges and hospitals, but the bill was narrowly rejected.

Therefore, as the law stands, the only way that KU can keep guns out of its buildings is by providing “adequate security measures,” which would include the installation of metal detectors at all public entrances, and hiring armed guards to monitor the entrances.  Most observers see the implementation of these security measures as virtually impossible given the state of Kansas’ ongoing budget woes.

KU Athletics officials have discussed their intention to install metal detectors and possibly reduce the number of entrances into Allen Fieldhouse for basketball games, and Memorial Stadium for football games.  The additional security is estimated to come with a hefty price tag – over $1 million.  For fans, this will make the process of getting into each venue significantly slower.

For more information on the University of Kansas Board of Regents’ policy on weapons on campus, click here.

 

Petefish Partner Thomas Johnson Completes Federal Defender’s Office Trial Skills Academy in San Diego

Thomas Johnson was one of only 66 attorneys accepted to participate in the Federal Defender’s Office Trial Skills Academy at California Western School of law in San Diego.

The skills-based Academy took place in April 2016, and has been a tremendous success for attorneys who focus a large part of their practice on defending individuals accused of crimes in federal courts. The Academy focused on (1) the use of a trial advocacy process to facilitate development of a persuasive, fact-based theory and supporting themes, and (2) the advocacy skills necessary to persuasively advance that theory and those themes throughout the trial.  The Academy was led by a very experienced and skilled faculty through a series of plenary sessions and workshops. Participants then had the opportunity to engage in the hands-on practice of those skills and receive feedback in small group workshops.

KU Judicial Panel Disagrees with Student Affairs, Vacates Sanctions Against Student

After a recent hearing before the University of Kansas Judicial Board Appeals Panel, the panel issued its decision agreeing with arguments presented by Petefish associate Matt Donnelly, and reducing sanctions that had previously been imposed by KU against Donnelly’s client, an undergraduate student.

The sanctions were imposed by KU’s Office of Student Affairs based on an alleged violation of KU’s Non-Academic Misconduct Policy.  The sanctions included requiring the student to undergo a psychological assessment, which the student had to pay for out-of-pocket.  Additionally, if the student did not agree to the psychological assessment and provide a letter from the provider confirming completion, KU would not allow the student to enroll in the subsequent semester.

That sanction was deemed improper by the panel, and contrary to University Senate Rules & Regulations which state that KU’s discretion is abused “if it is based on improper considerations, entirely fails to consider an important aspect of the problem, or lacks a plausible explanation of the connection between the facts found and the recommendations made.”

The panel’s decision has allowed the student the peace of mind to resume studies, while at the same time protecting the private information of the student.

Human Resources Professionals Receive Warning from DOJ and FTC

Recently, the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission released guidance to alert Human Resources professionals that it is against the law for an employer to agree to fix wages or to agree not to hire another company’s employees. Both of these situations are deemed illegal under antitrust laws, and violation of the rules could lead to criminal prosecution. These policies are being highlighted to ensure that workers receive the benefit of free-market competition for their services, in the same way that companies are prohibited from fixing prices on consumer goods. Some legal professionals are calling this “a major policy shift,” and warning HR professionals to be careful when even discussing limiting employee compensation or recruiting. To find out more, contact an experienced employment law advisor at Petefish Law.