Philly lawyer suspended for 'conflict of interest' in Swarthmore sex assault lawsuit
A lawyer whose license was suspended for one year says an alleged conflict of interest in Swarthmore sex assault cases was unintentional.
A Philadelphia lawyer who represented a group of feminist students at Swarthmore College in a 2013 complaint attacking the school's sex assault policies has been suspended for later filing a lawsuit on behalf of a male student who said that same group got him wrongly accused and expelled.
Raul Jauregui had his license to practice law in Pennsylvania suspended for one year, after the above actions were found to be a conflict of interest by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on June 11. But he said any conflicts were unintentional.
"I am passionate about helping victims of sexual assault, and I had a conflict," he said. "I did a conflict check and I believed there was no conflicts."
In 2013, Jauregui was hired by to represent a group of female Swarthmore students as they prepared a complaint to the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights against the school, alleging it had inadequately responded to students' complaints of sexual assault. The complaint included multiple anonymous allegations by some 14 students and was covered by media nationwide. Two years later, Jauregui sued Swarthmore on behalf of a male student who claimed he was wrongly accused of sexual assault and expelled.
That male student, called Juan Doe in court papers, had been accused by the 2013 Swarthmore report Jaurequi helped prepare. Jaurequi says he didn't realize his client was in the report because all the names were anonymous. But in a February 2017 order booting Jaurequi from Juan's case, U.S. District Judge Curtis Joyner found that Jaurequi "first learned" of Juan's case during the earlier representation, and had in fact been involved in editing a report that included the details and names of both Juan and his alleged victim.
According to the ODC, Jauregui wrote in his 2015 lawsuit that Juan was targeted by an "angry feminist cabal" at Swarthmore. He said the student who directly hired him, called "Activist #1" in the suit, was the "common link between the tragic sham-complaints brought against Juan by Jane," and claimed she "encouraged and provided incentives that led Jane to manufacture a sham of a complaint of sexual assault against Juan." It is technically a violation of legal ethics for an attorney to represent one client whose case is "materially adverse" to a previous client's, unless they have obtained informed consent from the previous client.
Back in 2013, Jauregui had begun to represent Activist #1 and other Swarthmore students after they filed a Clery complaint against their school claiming it wasn't responding seriously enough to their complaints of sexual assault. Jauregui helped the students prepare a Title IX complaint. But in his lawsuit on behalf of Juan, Jauregui claimed Swarthmore students "began to radicalize and take matters in their own hands in an often heroic, sometimes cruel and as concerns Juan clearly false attempt to make Swarthmore a safe place for women," including, he alleged, encouraging a female student to file a false complaint against Juan. Jauregui asserted that Juan was sexually assaulted by Jane, not the other way around.
In 2015, Jauregui was banned from Swarthmore's campus. He said the ban was "retaliatory" and came one day after he filed the lawsuit on behalf of Juan. In June 2016, Swarthmore moved to disqualify Jauregui from Juan's lawsuit, after Activist #1 contacted them with the claim that Jauregui was using confidential information from his representation of her to sue the school, Swarthmore's attorneys said in court papers. (Activist #1 declined to comment for this story).
"I believe that my work never disclosed or relied on confidential information of [Activist #1's]," Jauregui responded in court papers. "I honestly believe that I have only taken positions consistent with what I understand hers to be – advocating for victims of sexual assault at Swarthmore College, of which my client is one."
In February 2017, U.S. District Judge Curtis Joyner disqualified Jauregui from handling the case, siding with Swarthmore attorneys who argued that he had knowingly sued the school while utilizing confidential information obtained about Juan's case during his earlier work with women at the school.
Jauregui's suspension order was based on that conflict, other misrepresentations during Juan's case, and a "frivolous litigation" filed on behalf of his mother against her employer, ODC said.
Jauregui maintains that Juan was wrongly accused and expelled. "As soon as I learned that there was a conflict, I acted accordingly," he said. "But this isn't about my conflict. It's about solving the national crisis of Title IX false accusations."
Meanwhile, the tempest over sexual assault that started in Swarthmore in 2013 is still being felt on campus. Last month, students claiming the school was not sufficiently responding to sexual assault reports occupied the office of Dean of Students Liz Braun for more than week to demand she and other staff resign. Braun resigned her position later that month.