John Doe v. Michigan State University, No. 1:19-cv-226 (W.D. Mich. Apr. 15, 2019)
06/04/2019John Doe challenged his interim suspension, contemporaneously requesting a temporary restraining order (TRO) and/or a preliminary injunction. Doe’s TRO request was denied on procedural grounds, and his request for a preliminary injunction was denied in large part because Doe failed to establish a substantial likelihood that his procedural due process rights were violated.
When determining whether or not to grant a preliminary injunction, courts look to four factors: “1) whether the moving party demonstrates a strong likelihood of success on the merits; 2) whether the moving party would suffer irreparable injury without the order; 3) whether the order would cause substantial harm to others; and 4) whether the public interest would be served by the order.” The court balances the four factors in determining whether to grant this extraordinary remedy.
Here, Michigan State University (MSU) hired an outside firm to investigate complaints from two Jane Roes alleging John Doe had sexual contact with them without their consent. The investigation concluded that a preponderance of the evidence supported a finding of responsibility against John Doe in each case. Based on this report, MSU issued an interim suspension against Doe. Two days later, MSU held a hearing to determine whether the interim suspension should remain in effect throughout the disciplinary process; the hearing upheld the interim suspension. Doe sought a preliminary injunction on the basis of MSU’s alleged due process violations. Emphasizing the temporary nature of the suspension, and the due process protections already afforded, the court found that Doe failed to demonstrate a strong likelihood of success on the merits as to his procedural due process claim.
The court noted that “irreparable harm” weighed in favor of Doe because there was a possibility the interim suspension would prevent him from taking the exams he needed to progress to the next year, and he would ultimately be delayed in graduating. On the other hand, allowing Doe to return to school would expose the alleged victims to potential trauma from having to attend classes with their attacker; thus “substantial harm to others” weighed against Doe. Lastly, courts are hesitant to interfere with a school’s obligation to investigate and discipline sexual misconduct under Title IX. This deference means that absent a clear violation of law, “public interest” also weighed against granting a preliminary injunction.
The court denied Doe’s request for a preliminary injunction.