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To End ‘Kangaroo Courts,’ Lawmakers Need to Remove Qualified Immunity from Corrupt Title IX Officials

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Rebecca Hain: 513-479-3335


To End ‘Kangaroo Courts,’ Lawmakers Need to Remove Qualified Immunity from Corrupt Title IX Officials

WASHINGTON / January 9, 2024 – Recent incidents reveal that many campus Title IX offices are ignoring fundamental due process protections for the falsely accused, resulting in college disciplinary committees being dubbed “Kangaroo Courts.” Given that these biases are so egregious and likely intentional, lawmakers need to enact laws to remove qualified immunity from campus Title IX personnel.

These are three recent examples of egregious due process violations:

Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia: After he was sexually assaulted by a female resident, physician John Abraham reported the incident to his supervisor at the university. But inexplicably, his complaint was not forwarded to the Title IX office and never investigated (1). Abraham was forced from his faculty position before any investigation could be conducted.

In December, a jury decided in favor of Abraham, awarding him $11 million in compensation for financial losses and $4 million in punitive damages for the university’s “outrageous conduct.” (2)

University of Maryland, College Park: A UMD student recently sued the University of Maryland, accusing the institution of a biased disciplinary proceeding (3). The lead investigator in the case was Jamie Brennan, who had previously posted on her Facebook page a quote stating, “I think women are foolish to pretend they are equal to men, they are far superior and always have been.”

The man’s lawsuit notes, “Investigators are supposed to ‘identify discrepancies’ in the stories and ‘ask the hard questions.’…In this case there were several discrepancies for which there was no follow-up and certainly no ‘hard questions’… When asked to explain her conduct, Brennan retorted, ‘that was not something we sought to obtain.’” (4)

University of Tulsa, Oklahoma: Impartiality is the foundation of due process. But at the University of Tulsa, the Title IX coordinator made a video promising accusers that they “will be believed.” (5)  A similar promise was not made to falsely accused students.

No surprise, a sex discrimination lawsuit alleged the same Title IX coordinator had restricted an accused student’s access to evidence and treated him as guilty throughout the process. In August, the case was remanded to the Tulsa County District Court for final resolution (6).

These three incidents are not the exception to the rule. An analysis of 175 lawsuits decided in favor of the falsely accused student concluded that in most cases, the judicial decisions were based on the fact that colleges were failing to observe the most fundamental notions of fairness, often so gross as to suggest that sex bias was the motivating factor (7).

Indeed, recent actions by the federal Department of Education that flout basic requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act have been denounced as a “contempt of court” and “contempt of law.” (8)

Given the continuing lack of good faith on the part of the Title IX personnel, lawmakers must consider the removal of qualified immunity. Qualified immunity is the legal doctrine that shields officials from personal accountability when they violate a citizen’s constitutional rights.

The drive to end qualified immunity for unscrupulous police officers now enjoys broad support, including from U.S. senator Mike Lee (9), Americans Against Qualified Immunity (10), and the National Police Accountability Project (11).  An online petition, “End Qualified Immunity!” has garnered nearly 130,000 signatures (12).

It’s time to eliminate qualified immunity for corrupt Title IX officials and bring an end to the campus Kangaroo Courts.