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PR: Four Rulings, Four Reversals: Judges Give ‘Thumbs Down’ on Campus Sex Tribunals

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Contact: Gina Lauterio


Four Rulings, Four Reversals: Judges Give ‘Thumbs Down’ on Campus Sex

WASHINGTON / August 25, 2015 – In four recent cases, judges have overturned sexual assault findings by campus disciplinary committees. In each case, the judges ruled the college proceedings lacked necessary due process protections. As the new academic year begins, these judicial decisions highlight the need for renewed focus on fairness in college sex assault cases, SAVE says.

In the most recent case, federal judge Norman Moon ruled that Washington and Lee University created a climate of gender discrimination that served to “railroad” students who are wrongly accused of sexual assault. The judge concluded the university’s bare-bones adjudication process “plausibly support a Title IX claim” by the plaintiff. See Doe v. Washington & Lee Univ.

In a landmark case, Judge Carol McCoy ruled that the affirmative consent standard used by the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga was unfair because the rule “erroneously shifted the burden of proof” to the defendant, robbing the student of his due process rights. McCoy noted that “requiring the accused to affirmatively provide consent… is flawed and untenable if due process is to be afforded to the accused.”

In mid-August, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert H. O’Brien barred the University of Southern California from expelling Bryce Dixon, a football player who was expelled on an allegation of sexual assault. The judge found that that the university’s sexual assault adjudication process was fundamentally unfair to accused students:

And in July, Superior Court Judge Joel Pressman overturned a decision to suspend a University of California-San Diego student based on an allegation that consent for sex had not been obtained. Concluding “the hearing against petitioner was unfair,” Judge Pressman found serious procedural flaws in the university’s handling of the case:

“The presumption of innocence and due process lie at the very heart of notions of fairness and justice,” notes SAVE spokesperson Sheryle Hutter. “Universities that flaunt these standards can expect to become the focus of judicial scrutiny.”

Lack of due process could be harmful to victims, as well. In a recent editorial, columnist Ashe Schow highlighted the fact that faulty campus procedures “could also mean an actual rapist would be able to use the legitimate justice system to have his expulsion overturned.”

SAVE recommends that colleges forward allegations of sexual assault to local police for investigation and possible prosecution.

Stop Abusive and Violent Environments is working to promote effective solutions to campus sexual assault: