Campus Due Process Litigation Tracker

Doe v. Baum, 903 F.3d 575 (6th Cir. 2018)

School type: Public
State: Michigan
Federal Circuit: Sixth
Decision primarily favorable to: Student
Stage of litigation: Motion to dismiss
Keywords: Cross-examination, Due process, Title IX

The court reversed the district court’s decision to dismiss Plaintiff’s due process and Title IX claims.

Plaintiff, a male student at the University of Michigan, was accused of having non-consensual sex with a female student. The two students had conflicting accounts of the events in question, with witness testimony supporting both sides. The investigator concluded that both the evidence in support of and against a finding of sexual misconduct were equally convincing and found for the accused student. His accuser appealed, and a three-member panel reviewed the investigator’s report. Without considering new evidence or interviewing any students, the Board reversed, finding the accuser’s statement and witnesses more credible than those of the accused. The accused then filed suit against the university, claiming the school was required to give him a hearing and a chance to cross-examine the female student since their decision turned on a credibility finding. He also claimed the university discriminated on the basis of his gender.

The court reversed the District Court’s decision to dismiss the due process claim and held:

(1) if a student is accused of misconduct, the university must hold some sort of hearing before imposing a sanction as serious as expulsion or suspension, and (2) when the university’s determination turns on the credibility of the accuser, the accused, or witnesses, that hearing must include an opportunity for cross-examination.

The court also reversed the lower court’s decision to dismiss the student’s Title IX claim. The failure to allow cross-examination, the court held, created “articulable doubt” as to the outcome of Plaintiff’s case, and Plaintiff plausibly alleged that the hearing board credited the testimony of all female witnesses while discrediting the testimony of all male witnesses because of gender bias.