Doe v. Univ. of the Scis., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 158684 (E.D. Pa. Sep. 1, 2020)
09/08/20John Doe’s appeal to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals was successful in overturning the district court’s motion to dismiss. Back at the district court level, Doe filed a motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction seeking reinstatement as a student and to enjoin the University of the Sciences from imposing any disciplinary sanctions against him. The court denied Doe’s motion because he failed to establish immediate, irreparable harm if an injunction was not granted.
To obtain a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction, a movant must first demonstrate (1) a reasonable probability of eventual success in the litigation, and (2) that it will be irreparably injured if relief is not granted. During the fall 2018 semester, Plaintiff was accused of two incidents of sexual assault by two female students, Roe 1 and Roe 2.
The university investigated the allegations and ultimately expelled Doe after finding him responsible for the misconduct alleged. Despite promises of “fair” and “equitable” treatment, the university came to this conclusion without holding a live hearing. The Third Circuit held that denying Plaintiff a live hearing constituted a breach of contract. Because of this, Doe was able to show a likelihood of success on the merits.
Unfortunately, Doe failed to establish the second factor, irreparable injury in the absence of a preliminary injunction. The harm identified by Doe included the benefits of an education at his chosen school, damage to his reputation, inability to compete athletically, loss of a scholarship and inability to apply to medical school this year.
The court denied Doe’s argument that these constituted irreparable harm, noting that much of the harm Doe alleged occurred 19 months ago when he was expelled from the university. These “past harms” were irrelevant to the court’s analysis. Furthermore, the court noted that these past harms were readily compensable through monetary damages (loss of scholarship, and delay in education) or too speculative (reputational harm between now and the resolution of the case). The court also noted that Doe will be reinstated to the school of his choice if he succeeds on the merits, and that his ability to apply to medical school would not be affected because one of the classes Doe needs to graduate is only offered in the spring.
Because Doe could not show irreparable harm, the court did not need to address the parties’ arguments with respect to the possibility of harm to others from granting the injunction, or the public interest in granting injunctive relief. Doe’s motion was denied.
CATEGORY: Civil Litigation