John Doe No. 1 exposed a campus system biased against men with a 100% conviction rate. His lawsuit and publicity likely paved the way for John Doe No. 2 to get a fair hearing and a not guilty verdict years later.
We continue our march through campus cases we covered that have fallen off the radar. Yesterday we updated the status of John Doe No. 2 at Oberlin College who notched the rarest of all wins by obtaining a not guilty verdict from a campus tribunal in a “sexual misconduct” case.
We covered the win, and the related appeal court motion practice and lawsuit against the female accuser, in Rare Win For Oberlin College Male: “We were the first case in Oberlin’s history to win a Title IX hearing”.
But wait, you ask, what about John Doe No. 1? We have an update on that.
John Doe No. 1 was the convicted and expelled male student who exposed the biased campus tribunal system that resulted in a 100% conviction rate (until John Doe No. 2’s case), Lawsuit: Oberlin College sexual assault hearing process rigged, 100% conviction rate:
A male student who was expelled from campus in October 2016 for alleged sexual assault has filed a federal lawsuit against Oberlin. Though the lawsuit was filed in June 2017, it has not received any publicity. Yet the lawsuit contains allegations which, if proven, reflect that Oberlin’s system for adjudicating sexual assault accusations was fundamentally biased against males, at least during the 2015-2016 academic year….
The details of the sexual encounter and recriminations are all too familiar to anyone who has read the complaints being filed around the country regarding higher education sexual assault adjudications.
According to the Complaint, the encounter started as consensual by everyone’s account, including sexual intercourse. There were text messages and other evidence that at least at the start, both parties were on board. At some point, the female asked for intercourse to stop because she was experiencing physical discomfort from the intercourse, and the male stopped. At that point the male requested that the female perform oral sex on him, and she did.
The alleged violation of the campus code took place only on the issue of consent to oral sex, not the preceding intercourse and other sexual relatoins. Just prior performing oral sex, the female made a comment that she was “not sober.” That comment would become the central issue as to whether the female was “incapacitated” (and therefore unable to give true consent) under the Oberlin code and whether the male reasonably should have known that.
As in so many cases, the allegation of sexual assault was not made immediately, but only after a period of time. There was no claim of use of force during the female’s initial interactions with friends or interview with an investigator. At the hearing that would change, and she alleged the use of force to push her head down during oral sex.
The Complaint alleged this startling statistic (emphasis added):
“The Title IX Team has received and reviewed over 100 reports of potential sex-based discrimination and harassment thus far in 2015–16. Consistent with past semesters, the most commonly reported concerns include sexual harassment, sexual assault, and/or intimate partner violence between students. Most parties making reports ask for various remedies but also request that the College take no disciplinary action against nor inform the responding party about the report, which the College honors to the extent that it is possible to maintain a safe and equitable learning and working environment. About 20 percent of all reports in 2015–16 were referred to full investigation, and if appropriate, formal investigation. The threshold to move to formal process was met in around half of investigations where the responding party was subject to a College process (some investigations relate to allegations made about individuals who have graduated, left employment with the College, or cannot be identified). When the threshold [to move to formal process] was met, findings of responsibility on all charges occurred in 70 percent of processes. In the remaining processes, the responding party was found responsible for some but not all of the conduct charges….”
In the Order (pdf.)… the Court ruled that plaintiff, though having cast doubt on the correctness of the disciplinary panel ruling against him, had failed to allege facts showing such error was due to discrimination against men. Accordingly, the Court dismissed the federal claims with prejudice, but dismissed related state law claims (which might not require such a causal connection to sex discrimination) without prejudice. That means that John Doe can bring the state law claims in state court (and of course, can appeal the dismissal to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.)….
This case show how hard it is to prevail even when the correctness of the underlying disciplinary decision is in doubt. That is why having a fair process with due process protections is so important. There is no assurance that a bad college disciplinary decision that ruins the life of an innocent accused will be reversed by the courts.
John Doe No. 1 appealed, and won. Big League.
We covered the appeal decision in Oberlin College loses appeal in suit by expelled male student, case reinstated. The Appeals Court ruled, in part:
“Any number of federal constitutional and statutory provisions reflect the proposition that, in this country, we determine guilt or innocence individually—rather than collectively, based on one’s identification with some demographic group. That principle has not always been perfectly realized in our Nation’s history, but as judges it is one that we take an oath to enforce. Here, the relevant statute is Title IX of the Higher Education Act of 1965, which bars universities that receive federal funds from discriminating against students based on their sex. John Doe argues that his complaint in this case adequately stated a claim that Oberlin College did precisely that when it determined his responsibility on a sexual-assault allegation. We agree, and reverse the district court’s decision to the contrary.
* * *
“Here, everyone agrees that Doe pled facts casting doubt on the accuracy of his proceeding’s outcome. The question, then, is whether he pled facts plausibly suggesting that outcome was caused by sex bias.
As an initial matter, Oberlin argues that, to show a “particularized causal connection” between the flawed outcome and sex bias, Doe must identify some bias unique to his own proceeding. But that argument misreads our precedents. We have never held that, to be “particularized” in this sense, the causal bias must be unique to the plaintiff’s own case. To the contrary, for example, we have held that “patterns of decision-making” in the university’s cases can show the requisite connection between outcome and sex. Doe v. Miami Univ., 882 F.3d 579, 593 (6th Cir. 2018) (emphasis added). Otherwise, a university that categorically discriminates against men or women in sexual-assault proceedings could escape liability in erroneous-outcome cases. What Doe must show here, rather, is simply that he alleged facts supporting an inference of sex bias in his particular proceeding.
For any number of reasons, we hold that he did….”
Doe is a former Oberlin student who—after (i) an extensive investigation by a third party neutral, and (ii) an impartial hearing where he was afforded a fundamentally fair process—was found to have sexually assaulted Jane Roe (“Roe”) in the early hours of February 28, 2016 in violation of the Oberlin College Sexual Misconduct Policy (the “Policy”). Oberlin expelled Doe for his misconduct and violations of the Policy.
After that the case moved forward, and a mediation conference was held on December 14, 2020. According to the court filed Mediation Report, the case settled.
PROCEEDINGS: A Mediation Conference via video was conducted on December 14, 2020, with the above-listed participants. The parties were able to reach an agreement. The parties shall file a notice of dismissal with prejudice by close of business (5:00 p.m.) on December 29, 2020. The Court shall retain jurisdiction to enforce the settlement agreement.
So how much did John Doe No. 1 get? Plaintiff’s counsel declined to comment, so we don’t know.
John Doe No. 1 had his life turned upside down for conduct he claims was consensual, adjudicated by a fundamentally biased campus tribunal system.
Doesn’t John Doe No. 2’s result disprove John Doe No. 1’s claims about systemic bias against men? Not really. John Doe No. 1’s lawsuit and publicity likely paved the way for John Doe No. 2 to get a fair hearing.DONATE
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