A repugnant defense

The argument that a 14-year-old minor can consent to sexual relations with her teacher is repugnant, especially when made by the Los Angeles Unified School District. That is bad, but even worse is the fact that there are legal grounds for an attorney to mount a defense that attacks the integrity of a 14-year-old girl in rape case.

The case is a civil lawsuit against the school district by a student who had sexual relations with a teacher. The district said they were unaware of the intimate relationship, which took place outside of school, until a friend of the girl told a teacher about it who reported it to his superiors. In short, the teacher in question is now behind bars.

It is commonplace in such cases for there to be a civil suit against the district for negligence and damages to the minor and for the district to defend itself. What is unusual is that they do so by destroying the integrity of the victim, a minor student in the system whose care is entrusted to the LAUSD.

This legal strategy is immoral, especially given the characteristics of the case and the parties involved. Unfortunately, it is also legal.

The rules governing civil suits are different, more permissive than in a criminal trial. In this specific case, there are two prior court decisions, one federal and the other by the California Supreme Court, that accept that under specific circumstances a young woman is capable of granting legal consent to sexual relations.

What is a rape of a minor under criminal law can be acceptable under civil law. This is a legal aberration, and this interpretation must be corrected by the legislature.

It is unacceptable that no other legal strategy was used to defend the LAUSD. The lack of tact of attorney Keith Wyatt was made manifest by the district’s defense lawyer’s recent statements justifying his actions.

The comment led to his dismissal by the LAUSD, not his legal strategy, because the district’s elected officials claim they were unaware of the case and the defense mounted, which is completely unacceptable.

The LAUSD may have temporarily evaded responsibility with respect to the minor, but what it cannot evade is its responsibility for what its lawyers do.