A presidential appointee must take an oath “to support and defend the Constitution of the United States” in order to be sworn into office. Catherine Lhamon, President Joe Biden’s nominee to head the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, could not take that oath in good faith.
Last week, when asked at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pension Committee if she believed in the presumption of innocence, Lhamon could only muster that campus investigators looking at an accused student should be “open to the possibility that the person is not [guilty].”
Not the presumption of innocence, only the possibility.
Such a dismissive view of basic, constitutional due process rights demonstrates that Lhamon is not fit for the position. Senators would be wise to think twice before putting someone with this track record back in charge of the Office for Civil Rights.
Lhamon has a long and unsavory history on this particular topic. The dictatorial “Dear Colleague” letters on Title IX that emerged from her desk while heading the Office for Civil Rights during the Obama administration led to broadly documented abuses of students’ legal rights. Multiple courts have found her approach to these issues violated the core due process rights that underpin our system of justice.
While Lhamon may find compatriots in her views amongst fringe leftists, most liberals reject her worldview. Notably, four self-described “feminist law professors” at Harvard Law School and 16 law professors at Penn Law School opined against the Obama-Lhamon Soviet-style diktat.
Even the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, when posed a question about the way campus tribunals were working under the Obama administration, took issue with the lack of due process:
The person who is accused has a right to defend herself or himself, and we certainly should not lose sight of that … [it’s] one of the basic tenets of our system … everyone deserves a fair hearing.
Basic pillars of fairness—things like being presented the evidence used against you and having your case heard by an impartial party—shouldn’t be controversial, but they are to radicals like Lhamon.
Her lack of fitness was perhaps most clearly on display when she doubled down on wholly inaccurate and very troubling comments she made about the current Title IX regulation, falsely stating: “The regulation permits students to rape and sexually harass with impunity.”
Not only is such an outrageous statement an outright lie, but it also sends a very concerning signal to students about their ability to be able to seek and receive justice.
Biden and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona are entitled to a full staff, but America’s students deserve a leader in this critical role to protect civil rights who doesn’t have a long track record of opposing basic rights.
The president should instead nominate a measured leader who will respect core American principles, uphold the rule of law, and protect the civil rights of all students.
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