On June 8, 2017, the Central District Court of California issued a scathing opinion in John Doe v. Regents of the University of California condemning the actions of administrators at the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) for violating the due process and civil rights of a student who was suspended by University officials based on the sexual assault complaint of an ex-student who claimed she was too intoxicated to give consent during an off campus orgy. (Case No. 2:15-cv-02478). The student was suspended, denied access to investigate reports, and denied opportunities to call or cross-examine witnesses and have his lawyer present at the hearings.
The facts as reported in the District Court Opinion are as follows. On June 14, 2014, Jane Doe, another female student and three male students took a summer break trip together to Lake Tahoe. During the trip, Jane Doe frequently bragged about a “threesome” she had previously engaged in. On June 16, 2016, during a heavy day of drinking and smoking marijuana, Jane Doe and her friends decided they wanted to have an orgy. Jane Doe insisted that plaintiff John Doe join the orgy. Jane Doe was a willing participant throughout the orgy, getting on top of John Doe at one point, kissing him passionately, rubbing his hair while she performed oral sex on him, and verbalizing that she enjoyed what she was doing. Jane Doe did not exhibit any signs of incapacitation and joked about the orgy with her friends the following morning.
On November 6, 2014 John Doe was charged by university officials with sexual assault based on the complaint of Jane Doe. At the time of the complaint, a highly publicized complaint had been made by 6 other female students to the Title 9 Office of Civil Rights complaining that UCSB was not prosecuting enough “rape” and “sexual assault” crimes on campus in violation of their Title 9 obligations. Title 9 prohibits universities receiving federal funding from administrating any programs which discriminate on the basis of race, gender, religion, national origin, etc.
Ironically, male students are now fighting back using the anti-discrimination provisions of Title 9 to justify their lawsuits against universities and state officials for engaging in violations of federal law. This decision is an important one because it provides a road map for a federal court civil rights action on behalf of men expelled or suspended from universities as a result of sexual assault allegations made in campus tribunals, which often lack basic evidentiary and due process safeguards.
Importantly, the decision holds that university officials may violate due process and other civil rights of students for failing to provide: (1) meaningful notice of the charges; (2) timely access to all investigative reports and evidence; (3) an opportunity to present evidence in their favor; and (4) an opportunity to have counsel present during hearings. The Court held that failing to provide these basic rights may violate a student’s 14th Amendment Due Process Rights and may further violate 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 (deprivation of rights), a statute which protects individuals from state officials acting under the color of law to deprive a person of their constitutional rights and liberties.
Moreover, the decision holds that a complaint which adequately alleges due process and constitutional violations can withstand “absolute” and “qualified immunity” defenses which are often used by state officials and district attorneys to defend their improper actions.
The Court held:
It is undisputed that students in public schools, including colleges and universities, enjoy a property interest in a public education and in their own good names, reputations, honor and integrity. See, e.g., Goss v. Lopez, 419 U.S. 565, 574 (1975). A finding of guilt can “have a major impact immediate and life-long impact on [their] personal life, education, employment, and public engagement.” Id. Therefore, before schools take disciplinary actions against students accused of breaking school rules, the students must be afforded “due process” in order to avoid arbitrary deprivations of liberty or property.” Id.
Title 9 litigation has exploded across the country as a result of women using the administrative complaint process at universities to lodge “rape” and “sexual assault” claims. Given the broad and expansive definition of rape which allows a woman to claim that she was too “intoxicated” and could not freely give “consent”, thousands of women across the country are making false allegations of rape and sexual assault against a backdrop of on-campus rape hysteria which propagates the myth that 1 out of 5 women has been raped on campus. These allegations are often brought by psychologically unstable persons and are supported and encouraged by university officials who are acting under the color of authority to increase on-campus prosecutions (in order to obtain more Title 9 funding for their departments), increase their own positions of authority, while destroying the reputations and future prospects of male students.
The Washington Post reports that Title IX that the number of men accused of rape who have filed title IX lawsuits has skyrocketed. Between 1991 and 2011 (a 20-years period), only 15 lawsuits have been filed by male students in regard to rape accusations. However, since 2011, at least 150 have been filed in about 5 years alone. Male students who believe that they have been mistreated by school witch hunt tribunals and are rightly taking to the courts to get relief.