John Doe No. 2 is an Oberlin College male student who seeks an injunction halting what he asserts is a biased sexual assault hearing system.

John Doe No. 2 faces the same system of college adjudication which led a different student, John Doe No. 1, to sue after expulsion, asserting that the college had a 100% conviction rate for accused students (all or almost all male) who went to hearing.

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals recently reinstated John Doe No. 1’s case, finding such systemic results could be evidence of bias in the system:

“the 100 percent responsibility rate—in cases where most if not all the respondents were male—supports an inference regarding bias in the hearings themselves”

Unfortunately for John Doe No. 2, that Sixth Circuit decision had not yet been issued at the time his case was thrown out by a federal district judge. We covered that federal district court ruling in Oberlin College male student tries, and fails, to obtain injunction halting allegedly biased sexual assault hearing:

Once in federal court, things went downhill quickly for John Doe No. 2.

While there is no transcript available electronically, there appears to have been a conference call at which the judge expressed an intent to dismiss the case as not “ripe” for adjudication. There is no indication on the court docket that at that point the defendants even had filed a written opposition to the motion or Answer to the Complaint. I requested copies of any opposition filings from counsel for both plaintiff and defendants, and received no response.

On April 1, 2020, John Doe No. 1 filed a Motion for Reconsideration of Court’s Expressed Intention To Dismiss Plaintiff’s Claims And Deny Plaintiff’s Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order (pdf.), based on a recent decision in an unrelated case against the University of Michigan in which an injunction was entered.

The supporting legal argument by John Doe No. 2 focused on the possibility of a hearing not in-person, with a lengthy discussion of a case against the University of Michigan in which an injunction was granted against a process that did not guarantee an in-person hearing:

Plaintiff respectfully asserts that Oberlin College’s Sexual Misconduct Policy contains provisions and procedures that would allow the College to make an adjudication that he violated said policy by engaging in non-consensual sexual conduct with another student without providing him with the constitutionally mandated live hearing requirement and without providing him with the constitutionally mandated opportunity to confront his accuser and any other adverse witnesses against him in the presence of a neutral fact finder….

Just as the district court in Doe v. University of Michigan, ultimately held that the University of Michigan’s sexual misconduct policies were unconstitutional and that University of Michigan could only proceed with its disciplinary proceedings against the plaintiff if it provided the plaintiff with a live hearing and the opportunity to crossexamine his accuser and other witnesses,38 so too should this Honorable Court in respect to the Oberlin Sexual Misconduct Policy and the disciplinary proceedings that Oberlin College has initiated against Plaintiff.

The Judge did not agree, and on April 7, 2020, entered an Order (pdf.) dismissing the due process claims on the merits, and the remaining claims without prejudice (meaning they can be brought later) because they were premature.

John Doe No. 2 appealed, and now has filed his Appeal Brief (pdf.).

A lot of the Brief concerns the procedure in the District Court, and what he claims was an improper sua sponte dismissal of the case. Other parts of the Brief concern substantively whether John Doe No. 2 has a claim to enjoin a hearing that hasn’t happened. Here are the issues presented:

STATEMENT OF THE ISSUES

1. Did the District Court error in sua sponte dismissing Mr. Doe’s federal due process claim against the Defendants on the merits and without providing him reasonable notice that the adequacy of his claim was in question;
2. Whether a student who attends a private college is entitled to any level of due process during a Title IX sexual misconduct investigation and disciplinary process;
3. What due process is a private college obligated to provide to a student who is accused of violating its Title IX sexual misconduct policy;
4. Did the District Court error in sua sponte dismissing Mr. Doe’s remaining state and federal claims against the Defendants without prejudice and on the ground that his claims were premature; and
5. Whether a student who attends a private college is required to wait until after the college makes a finding that he or she violated the college’s sexual misconduct policy before he or she is able to seek injunctive relief regarding the procedures that the college intends to use and/or has used against him or her during the disciplinary process.

The Statement of the Case brings up the Sixth Circuit decision in John Doe. No. 1 which came down after the District Court decision:

This case involves yet another male student at Oberlin College suing the College for sex discrimination, in violation of Title IX of the Higher Education Act of 1965. Mr. Doe’s claims against the Defendants are based on Oberlin College’s well-documented, gender-based discriminatory policies and procedures that it has implemented against male students accused of violating its sexual misconduct policy and its biased handling of its investigation and adjudicatory process into whether he violated the College’s sexual misconduct policy.

The District Court sua sponte dismissed Mr. Doe’s federal and state law claims against Oberlin College and the other named Oberlin College Defendants and denied his Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order and a Preliminary Injunction based on its mistaken beliefs that: 1) he could not plead a viable due process claim against the Defendants for violating his constitutional rights to due process because Oberlin College is a private college; and 2) his other federal and state law claims were premature (lacked ripeness) since the Defendants had not completed their investigation and adjudication of whether he violated the College’s sexual misconduct policy.

Notably, within three (3) months of the District Court’s judgment entering dismissing Mr. Doe’s claims, this Honorable Court issued an Opinion in a separate case finding that a male student at Oberlin College had “amply stated a claim for sex discrimination in violation of Title IX” against the College as it related to the College’s investigation and adjudication that he had violated its sexual misconduct policy.1 In that case, this Honorable Court vacated the district court’s judgment entry of dismissal and remanded the matter back to the district court for further proceedings consistent with its Opinion.2

Similarly, in the present matter, Mr. Doe respectfully moves this Honorable Court to vacate the District Court’s judgment entry of dismissal and to remand this matter back to the District Court for further proceedings on his claims against Oberlin College and the other Defendants.

The college’s Brief is due in about a month. We will continue to follow the case.

 

 
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