Campus Due Process Litigation Tracker

Doe v. Marian University, No. 19-cv-388 (E.D. Wis. Dec. 31, 2019)

School type: Private
State: Wisconsin
Federal Circuit: Seventh
Decision primarily favorable to: University
Stage of litigation: Motion for summary judgment
Keywords: Single investigator, Title IX

The court granted the university’s motion for summary judgment on Plaintiff’s Title IX claim.

Plaintiff and his accuser, Jane Roe, were friends from Marian University’s ROTC program who had sex after a party at which both had been drinking. Their accounts of the evening differ, but both parties agree that during a conversation the following morning, Roe revealed that she did not remember much from the night before.

Ultimately, their friendship soured, and things grew dramatically worse after Roe became engaged to a man from Plaintiff’s hometown with whom Plaintiff did not get along. After Roe’s fiance learned of the sexual encounter between Plaintiff and Roe, Roe filed a formal complaint with the university.

The university used an investigative model (no hearing) to adjudicate Roe’s claim. Plaintiff was ultimately found responsible for “having sex with a person whom he knew or should have known was too inebriated to consent,” and was suspended for two semesters.

Following the Seventh Circuit’s recent decision in Doe v. Purdue University, the court held that to establish sex discrimination, Plaintiff must plead facts that “raise a plausible inference that the university discriminated. . .‘on the basis of sex.’”

Plaintiff argued that a number of the university’s actions pointed to bias against males in sexual misconduct cases, including the university’s screening of the film The Hunting Ground and the Dean of Students’ public support for Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Justice Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct in the months leading up to his Supreme Court confirmation.

The court found Plaintiff’s arguments unavailing, holding that “The facts presented, while illustrative of a complex set of relationships and an ersatz legal-cum-educational process, do not support a claim for gender discrimination.” The court noted that the university kept both parties equally informed throughout the disciplinary process, thoroughly evaluated both parties’ credibility, and interviewed both parties’ witnesses. While Plaintiff presented some evidence that university officials had a pro-victim bias, the court stressed that “While their comments are pro-victim, this does not compel the conclusion that they are also pro-woman, or anti-man.”

Ultimately, the court held,

There is no evidence by which a reasonable juror could infer that Doe was treated a certain way because of his gender, rather than because he was accused of raping someone. Absent some fact suggesting that the bias in Doe’s investigation occurred “on the basis of sex,” summary judgment must be granted in favor of Marian University.