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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC looks to dismiss student's lawsuit

On UNC’s behalf, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper filed a motion Friday to dismiss junior Jillian Murray’s lawsuit against UNC. She filed the lawsuit in Orange County Aug. 20. Representatives from Cooper’s office refused to comment.

In her lawsuit, Murray said her case was mishandled from the moment she reported the sexual assault to the adjudication process. Murray said UNC violated state law by not allowing her lawyer to cross-examine the person she accused. Murray did not respond to requests for comment.

State law allows lawyers to participate in students’ non-academic conduct cases. Prior to its passage in 2013, UNC lobbied against the law.

Judge Martin McGee denied Murray’s request for a temporary restraining order against UNC, which would prevent her grievance hearing from taking place. McGee denied the order because Murray did not show she would sustain irreparable harm if UNC’s hearing continued.

Murray’s interpretation of the 2013 law would significantly alter the nature of UNC’s disciplinary hearings, McGee said.

The University’s motion, filed Sept. 19, said Murray’s lawsuit should be dismissed altogether because of “mootness, lack of standing, lack of subject matter jurisdiction, and failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.”

Murray’s lawsuit requested her lawyer be fully involved in the grievance panel, but the hearing panel concluded its work two days before UNC’s motion was filed, the motion stated.

The questions originally in controversy are no longer at issue, the motion later said.

Murray’s lawsuit requests an interim policy that follows federal and state law. About one week after she filed the lawsuit, UNC released a new sexual assault policy.

The new policy doesn’t allow lawyers to cross-examine the opposing party or, in some cases, the witnesses. Henry Clay Turner, Murray’s lawyer, said in August the new policy makes lawyers even less involved in sexual assault cases. He did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

“Lawyers can’t question anyone. If you want a lawyer, you can say you have one ... But you will hire one at your own expense and your lawyer cannot examine any witnesses,” Turner said in an interview with The Daily Tar Heel in August.

Under the new policy, lawyers can provide legal advice to students during the hearing, make opening and closing statements, submit questions to the hearing chair for the opposing party, question the case’s investigator and question witnesses.

The U.S. Department of Education also discouraged schools from allowing the two parties to cross-examine each other in a 2011 Dear Colleague letter, saying it could perpetuate a hostile environment.

“Because students may not directly question one another, their attorneys also may not question the other party,” UNC’s new sexual assault policy states.

Turner also said he was not forwarded information, such as emails, about his client’s case. In sexual assault cases, all of these powers are important, he said.

“Full participation of a lawyer, if it means anything, it means lawyers are allowed to do lawyer stuff,” Turner said. “The quintessential lawyer stuff means questioning the opposing party.”

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