Contact: Gina Lauterio
Judge Issues Scathing Decision Against Brandeis U.; Ruling is Latest in String of Cases Favoring Due Process
WASHINGTON / April 5, 2016 – The Massachusetts District Court has issued a strongly worded decision, ruling in favor of a student accused of sexual misconduct. The case is the most recent is a series of legal rulings supporting the need for stronger due process measures in campus sexual misconduct cases.
The case involved a same-sex relationship between two male students attending Brandeis University in Massachusetts. Following a 21-month long romantic relationship, John Doe was accused of “numerous inappropriate nonconsensual sexual interactions.” (1) The college proceeding led to a disciplinary warning and permanent notation in his educational record stating Doe had committed “serious sexual transgressions.” Doe filed a lawsuit alleging breach of contract, defamation, and other violations.
Writing on behalf of the District Court, Judge Dennis Saylor highlighted the basic unfairness of the University engaging an experienced attorney, while it expected “a student, approximately 21 years old, with no legal training or background, to defend himself, alone.”
The Court chided the university for its description of the accuser as a “victim,” noting, “Whether someone is a ‘victim’ is a conclusion to be reached at the end of a fair process, not an assumption to be made at the beginning.”
Judge Saylor was especially critical of the university investigator’s finding that Doe had violated the university’s affirmative consent policy because “it is absurd to suggest that it makes no difference whatsoever whether the other party is a total stranger or a long-term partner in an apparently happy relationship.”
The judge also questioned the University’s use of a preponderance of evidence standard of proof, which he viewed “as part of an effort to tilt the playing field against accused students, which is particularly troublesome in light of the elimination of other basic rights of the accused.” The District Court concluded, “Brandeis appears to have substantially impaired, if not eliminated, an accused student’s right to a fair and impartial process.”
The Brandeis decision is the most recent in a series of rulings that favor stronger due process protections for accused students at Appalachian State University, Brown University, University of California-Davis, University of California-San Diego, Cornell University, George Mason University, University of Michigan, Middlebury College, Pennsylvania State University, Salisbury University, University of Southern California, University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, and Washington and Lee University. (2)
SAVE is working for evidence-based, constitutionally sound solutions to campus sexual assault: www.saveservices.org