‘Campus Courts in Court’: New legal scholarship from KC Johnson and FIRE’s Samantha Harris

January 9, 2020

In state and federal courts nationwide, campus disciplinary procedures are being tested by a wave of lawsuits filed by students in the wake of the 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter on campus sexual misconduct from the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. 

As Samantha Harris, FIRE’s Vice President for Procedural Advocacy, has repeatedly documented in this space, judges are continuing to weigh hundreds of claims precipitated by institutional responses to alleged student sexual misconduct — and the ramifications of their rulings for student rights will be felt for years to come.

That’s why FIRE is proud to announce that Samantha and Brooklyn College Professor KC Johnson have published new legal scholarship surveying the impact of this litigation in the latest issue of the New York University Journal of Legislation and Public Policy

In their new article, “Campus Courts in Court: The Rise in Judicial Involvement in Campus Sexual Misconduct Adjudications,” Samantha and KC find that despite their traditional deference to campus procedures, “courts have increasingly intervened” in litigation concerning student sexual misconduct, “perhaps startled by the indifference to fairness and the pursuit of truth of academic institutions that in all other capacities champion both concepts.” 

After tracing the history of case law concerning student sexual misconduct and explaining the procedural changes on campus mandated by OCR’s 2011 letter, the authors conduct a detailed analysis of recent rulings, providing readers with a close examination of the precedent as it continues to evolve and an appendix listing relevant cases organized by their holding. Samantha and KC close by offering rebuttals to commentators who argue that the recent holdings are of limited significance.

Making sense of the shifting legal landscape after this flood of litigation is of paramount importance not only for civil liberties organizations like FIRE, but also for students, faculty, administrators, attorneys, and the general public. Samantha and KC’s new article is an excellent way to begin to do so.