UC Berkeley Disregards Firm's Demands Concerning Activists

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UC Berkeley declined to acquiesce to Oakland-based law firm Siegel & Yee, which demanded the dismissal of charges against student activists as well as unrestricted legal representation for the activists during student conduct hearings by April 23.

Mike Smith, campus counsel of the Office of Legal Affairs, wrote in a letter sent by the campus to the firm Monday that the Campus Code of Student Conduct allows students to use outside legal counsel, but during a conduct hearing students must be their own advocates. Smith's letter did not address the attorneys' demand to dismiss all charges against students.

"Our Code has been developed over time in consultation with students and faculty and reflects a balance between maintaining an educational, non-overly legalistic process, while fully protecting the basic due process rights of our students," he said in the letter. "While there are differing policy views about this, I believe our process meets all applicable legal standards."

The firm's involvement stems from ongoing controversy surrounding the campus's handling of student activists' conduct violation charges and consequences following various protests that occurred during the fall semester.

Students facing charges have said they do not receive adequate legal counsel during hearings, but campus officials say the process is meant to be "educational" rather than mirror a criminal procedure.

The attorneys had previously stated in a letter that, if the campus did not respond within 10 days of the letter's delivery on April 13, the firm would "vigorously and fully investigate each client's legal options so that they can fully exercise their rights." Attorney Dan Siegel said he did not hear back from the campus until Monday afternoon.

Siegel added that while he could not comment on the firm's next course of action, he said he will continue to pursue the matter to see that the campus drops the charges against the students.

Many students involved in activism last semester face seven-month suspensions. Sanctions of conduct charges are ultimately approved by Dean of Students Jonathan Poullard.

Siegel also expressed concern about Angela Miller, a UC Berkeley student who still faces consequences for her alleged involvement in the Dec. 11 attack on Chancellor Robert Birgeneau's campus residence. Though the Alameda County District Attorney's Office did not find sufficient evidence to press charges, Miller received multiple conduct violation charges and has not been permitted to access campus apart from attending class.

A May 5 hearing has been scheduled to determine whether or not Miller was in violation of the code.


Contact Katie Nelson at [email protected]

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