Campus Due Process Litigation Tracker

Doe v. Marymount University, 297 F. Supp. 3d 573 (E.D. Va. 2018)

School type: Private
State: Virginia
Federal Circuit: Fourth
Decision primarily favorable to: Student
Stage of litigation: Motion to dismiss
Keywords: Biased statements, Breach of contract, Cross-examination, Erroneous outcome, Exculpatory evidence, Title IX

The court denied the university’s motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s Title IX claims, but dismissed his other claims.

Plaintiff John Doe and his accuser Jane Roe’s first encounter was in November 2014, when both were undergraduate students at Marymount University. According to Plaintiff’s complaint, they talked a while in Plaintiff’s dorm room before they “began to make out” and “fondle each other” without touching each other’s genitals.

Roe later left and subsequently told Z.M., a fellow student at Marymount, that Plaintiff had sexually assaulted her. According to Roe, Plaintiff held her down and forcibly performed oral sex on her. When she got off the bed, Plaintiff “put his fist up her vagina,” locked the door and prevented her from leaving. Finally, Plaintiff took off his pants but when Roe “grabbed and yanked his penis,” he let her leave.

When investigators interviewed Roe’s roommate, L.J., she claimed that Roe had initially appeared giddy from the encounter with Plaintiff, but when none of her roommates paid attention to her she started to consume alcohol, and only later claimed that Plaintiff was “aggressive.” W.R., another roommate, corroborated L.J.’s account.

Throughout the investigation, Plaintiff had consistently objected to certain facts and materials in the investigators’ draft report. Despite his objections, the investigators determined that there was “sufficient information alleged to suggest that violations of [the University’s sexual misconduct policy] may have occurred.” Ultimately, an adjudicator found Plaintiff responsible for sexual misconduct and he was suspended from Marymount.

On Plaintiff’s Title IX “erroneous outcome” claim, the court held that Plaintiff had plead facts sufficient both to cast articulable doubt on the outcome of the proceeding and to suggest that gender bias was a motivating factor. Procedurally, Plaintiff alleges that he was denied the opportunity to “identify and interview potential witnesses, to gather exculpatory evidence, to meet with the adjudicator in person, and to cross-examine Roe.” The court held that these procedural insufficiencies alone were enough to “cast doubt on the accuracy of the outcome of [Plaintiff]’s Title IX hearing.” Furthermore, significant facts were either “not brought to the adjudicator’s attention or were ignored by the adjudicator.”

Regarding gender bias, the court held that the adjudicator’s interaction with a male student who accused a female student of sexual assault — in which he asked the male student if he was aroused by the unwanted touching — suggests that he may hold certain “gendered beliefs” . The court found that “If [the adjudicator] possessed the outdated and discriminatory views of gender and sexuality alleged in [Plaintiff]’s Complaint, these views would have naturally infected the outcome of [Plaintiff]’s Title IX disciplinary proceedings.”

On Plaintiff’s breach of contract claims, the court held that “[Plaintiff] cannot rely on Marymount’s Student Handbook or Sexual Assault Policy as enforceable contracts or as terms of an implied contract.” The court thus dismissed Plaintiff’s claims based on a breach of contract theory.

Plaintiff’s state law breach of common law duty claim as well as his breach of the law of associations claim were also dismissed.