Here is an article I just came across recounting a ruling from earlier this week. I believe this case was the subject of some debate here when it was filed.
Trial is still a long ways off if it happens at all. The plaintiff’s complaint survived a motion to dismiss. It’s an important milestone, but the vast majority of cases that proceed past this point eventually settle.
Here’s the judge’s opinion (mostly) denying Amherst’s motion for judgment on the pleadings:
That opinion is Exhibit A for the proposition that Universities should NOT be involved in investigating or prosecuting allegations of serious crimes. Its time to change Title IX. The sooner the better.
Amherst would be insane if they don’t settle this.
@hanna, am I correct that this is somewhat unique in the finding that the sex discrimination claim can proceed?
I looked at the order. Out of the 10 causes of action 6 were thrown out. The case is mostly now a breach of contract case. There is no emotional distress for a breach of contract. Who knows what will happen after some discovery is done and a motion for summary judgment is filed. If Amherst was my client I would tell them they would be insane if they settled it for any more than nuisance value
I don’t know man. It would sure be an interesting deposition of the investigator. Not sure Amherst wants that.
This isn’t “reverse” discrimination. It’s just gender discrimination, plain and simple.
This sounds like a story out of an episode of The Maury Povich Show. I can’t say who was at fault but college is indeed guilty of gender discrimination.
Ironic, isn’t it. There are a couple of cases in the pipeline now where the universities practiced what can only be termed as gender discrimination in their treatment of accused students. But it 'twas easy to see this coming. The ones that make me scratch my head are the ones underway now where there is no accuser no alleged victim…the college is the accuser. I can’t imagine any counsel to a university telling university administration that doing so is a “good idea.”
I basically agree with post #3. This case combines so many troubling aspects. You have an encounter that both parties say begins as a consensual encounter, but you also have the alleged perpetrator being apparently much drunker than the alleged victim. The Amherst policy states that someone incapacitated by alcohol cannot give consent. But the investigation by Amherst never seems to even entertain the possibility that Jones assaulted Doe by proceeding with sexual activity when he was, by everyone’s agreement (including her own text immediately after the event), extremely drunk.
Jones also knows from the outset that Doe has admitted to no memory of the event. You have a claim of withdrawn consent that only emerges for the first time two months later. You have an investigation conducted by an attorney hired by the college, not a trained police investigator. You have an accused who is basically prevented or at least discouraged from conducting his own investigation. To me this case cried out for being investigated by the police.
I haven’t followed these cases as extensively as some of you probably have. Has there yet been a case where a male student has made a complaint against a female student for performing a sex act on him while he was too drunk to consent, or says he withdrew consent? I can imagine a situation where, after a drunken encounter, there might be a race to the Title IX coordinator to be the first to claim lack of consent or withdrawn consent – especially if you fear that the other person might do the same. That’s why you need trained, truly neutral investigators who take a hard look at the presence or absence of corroborating evidence, e.g., physical evidence, texts, statements of witnesses, etc.
I vaguely remember the thread on this case – it didn’t last long because everyone agreed the boy got a bad deal and thus we all had nothing to argue about.
I recall there was evidence that we thought should have made it’s way into the hearing that for some reason did not. There was some text that indicated the RA did not like Doe and egged the accuser on to file the complaint. And of course the evidence that she had a sexual encounter with someone else right after Doe left her room was relevant to all of us. While that might not be admissible in a court of law, these hearings have no such constraints (as far as I know.)
I think at the end of the day we all surmised she may have filed the complaint because she had sex with her roommates boyfriend and was losing friends right and left. I agree that Amherst may want to settle quickly – the breach of contract claim which survived the motion is based in part on the unfairness of the hearing and the unreliable investigation. If I represented Doe I would hold out for everything he is seeking.
@Corinthian yes there was such a case where a male student filed a sexual assault claim against a female – he was intoxicated and she was not. She was expelled.
@harvestmoon1, there is always something to argue about!
I agree with concept that we have a police and court system equipped to handle legitimate cases of all types of crime. Colleges need to be policed by the same forces and the laws enforced by the same courts as the communities in which they reside. The college should not be investigating or adjudicating any non-academic behavior or at the very least not any felony allegations. Think of how many problems could have been avoided in many places if the victims would have simply used the normal system. There are certainly cases like Baylor where the police colluded or at the very least condoned the bad behavior. The system already gives an avenue to address that by escalating to the state police or filing a civil suit.
In practice, colleges do so with plenty of non-academic behaviors, such as alcohol possession and consumption in residence halls or recognized fraternities and sororities (even by students who are not prohibited by law from doing so). Some colleges have restrictions on some types of fully consensual sexual behavior.
My statement was more about how I think it should be, not how I think it really is.
I understand private schools having a stricter code of conduct than a public school. I even understand schools having rules that would not otherwise apply in society as a whole. What I don’t understand is how we arrived at a time when universities have their own police forces and have become the 1st stop for enforcement of laws that are not related to their role in the academic arena. Assault is a crime in every state. If my child is assaulted, I would much rather he/she go to the local/county/state police than to the college.
This is such a wacky case. I hope it goes to trial so we can all learn about the surrounding law and facts.
Agreed 100%. I read the decision and I think the judge got this right. Doe was expelled following a flawed and biased investigation/hearing, and he didn’t like it so he sued. This stage basically comes down to Amherst asking to have the whole thing thrown out, but the judge said the boy Doe raises valid points and it should proceed.
Not sure I agree with this. I wonder how much the boy Doe has had to pay out in attorneys fees so far. It isn’t completely clear what Doe has asked for, but Amherst would be wise to settle for enough to make this go away, including removing the expulsion from his transcript. It may depend on what else Doe has been doing since - has he avoided applying to transfer to another school because of the transcript issue? There is no question that Doe has suffered here. It is doubtful he wants to return to Amherst now and continue to pursue his degree there - imagine them trying to put him back in the same dorms?
Amherst is wealthy enough to write a check to pay for his attorneys, fix his transcript, plus enough to pay for his tuition at a transfer school. He may have initially asked for much more than that, but I’d advise him to accept this much now, and write a movie screenplay about this experience. Hollywood never seems to tire of stories involving college kids having sex. I could see Williams allowing a movie about this to be filmed on their campus.
It is not just a contract case. The Title IX claims survived. That’s the real point. Title IX provides for compensatory damages and attorneys fees.
But this really isn’t a damages case. It is a publicity case. That is the issue for Amherst.
On the flipside, Amherst may feel they have a strong enough case and/or feel the plaintiff’s case/proof is weak enough that it’d be better to risk a trial in the hopes of having the plaintiff’s case thrown out or ruled in their favor at trial and thus, being vindicated in their position than to settle and implicitly admit they did wrong the plaintiff. And if the favorable ruling to the defendant is airtight and leaves the plaintiff little/no reasonable standing to appeal with much/any success, even better from their perspective.
Rightly or wrongly, this is one reason why some don’t settle lawsuits even when it may seem more financially worthwhile to do so, the implication that settling implies some guilt on their part when they feel their actions were justified.
Granted, there are cases in which the defendants in given lawsuits have overestimated their case’s strengths and lost big at trial, but that seems to be the big risk Amherst is willing to undertake so far.