Doe v. Univ. of Miss, No. 3:18-CV-138-DPJ-FKB, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 7490 (S.D. Miss. Jan. 16, 2019)
01/16/2019Andrew Doe and Bethany Roe, undergraduate students at the University of Mississippi engaged in sexual intercourse on December 2, 2016. Doe maintained that the encounter was consensual, but Roe’s friends called law enforcement and reported the incident. A Title IX investigation was opened by the University’s Title IX coordinator, and Doe was notified of the charges and scheduled to appear for a disciplinary hearing before a panel of University Judicial Council. The Judicial Council held a hearing on March 31, 2017 and Doe was found responsible and expelled from the University. On appeal, the Appellate Consideration Board upheld the finding of responsibility but changed the sanction from expulsion to suspension until the fall of 2020.
On March 5, 2018, Doe filed a lawsuit in the Southern District of Mississippi alleging violations of Title IX, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and breach of contract against the University and University officials. Doe’s Title IX claims were based on the Title IX coordinator’s incomplete investigation, a judicial council member who openly mocked defenses raised by men accused of sexual assault and Doe’s argument that he was treated less favorably than a similarly situated female student. The Court held that these allegations state a plausible claim of gender bias.
Doe also argued that the investigation was flawed and in violation of his right to due process. Doe was never given the opportunity to meet with the Title IX coordinator, nor was he given the opportunity to cross examine witnesses against him. Doe also argued that the panel itself had been trained in a way that prejudiced Doe from the start. The training materials state that "When both parties are intoxicated, findings are to be made in favor of the complainant, who is typically female." Pursuant to the University’s policies, Doe should have been entitled to challenge the allegedly biased panel members, but he was denied this opportunity. Doe argued that the preponderance of the evidence standard of proof constituted a due process violation and that the standard should actually be clear and convincing evidence. The Court elected to carry this issue beyond the pleading stage, even though this is an area of developing law. Taken as a whole, the Court concluded that Doe has stated plausible claims for a due process violation.CATEGORY: Due Process