Campus Due Process Litigation Tracker

Doe v. Loh, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 53619 (D. Md. Mar. 29, 2018)

School type: Public
State: Maryland
Federal Circuit: Fourth
Decision primarily favorable to: University
Stage of litigation: Motion to dismiss
Keywords:

The court granted the university’s motion to dismiss is granted.

After his expulsion for sexual misconduct, Plaintiff sued the University of Maryland asserting Title IX sex discrimination, constitutional due process claims, and various state-law claims.

On the evening of December 4, 2014, Plaintiff, Jane Roe (“Roe”), and two other students known as K.P. and A.S. left a bar for K.P. and A.S.’s on-campus apartment. Roe then went to bed in K.P.’s room. Accounts differ as to whether it was a “dare” or not, but Plaintiff decided to climb into bed with Roe while she slept. When they woke up during the night, the two started kissing, and Roe performed oral sex on Plaintiff per Plaintiff’s request. When Roe looked up and realized that Plaintiff was not K.P., she exclaimed “You’re not K.P.,” left the apartment, and called the police.

Plaintiff told campus police that he thought Roe knew it was him based on his beard (K.P. was clean shaven) and his voice. Campus police declined to bring criminal charges, but forwarded the complaint to the University of Maryland’s Office of Civil Rights and Sexual Misconduct (OCRSM).

Plaintiff alleged that the university’s investigator, Defendant Josh Bronson, interviewed him in a “prosecutorial” manner. Plaintiff alleged that Bronson failed to interview important witnesses, but Bronson’s report showed that he tried unsuccessfully to contact those witnesses. Plaintiff later received notice that a Standing Review Committee (SRC) meeting was scheduled to review his involvement in the alleged assault. He was told that Roe would not be required to attend, and that even if she were there, he would not be able to ask her questions. Plaintiff requested to postpone the meeting but his request was denied. He was found responsible, and after his appeal was denied, he was expelled.

The court analyzed Plaintiff’s due process claims under the Matthews v. Eldridge balancing test. Specifically, Plaintiff’s right to due process must be balanced against the university’s interest in regulating student conduct. First, the court held that “none of the alleged procedural deficiencies, taken alone or in combination, amount to constitutionally inadequate notice.” Second, the court held that Plaintiff had not alleged sufficient facts to show that Bronson was biased. Third, the court held that Plaintiff was “not entitled to ‘trial-like’ rights of confrontation or cross-examination at disciplinary proceedings” and that he had been given opportunities to challenge the veracity of Roe’s account.

With respect to Plaintiff’s Title IX claim, the court held that Plaintiff’s claim that the university’s sexual misconduct investigation “was infected with gender bias” was “fundamentally flawed.” The fact that the university sponsored awareness-raising programming such as the “Clothesline Project,” or that one of the defendant administrators had prior professional experience as an advocate for female sexual assault victims, did not create a plausible inference that the university “is indifferent or hostile to the needs of the remaining student body.”

The court refused to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state law claims and granted the university’s motion to dismiss.

Plaintiff appealed the decision to the Fourth Circuit, which affirmed.