Campus Due Process Litigation Tracker

Doe v. Michigan State University, No. 1:19-cv-00226 (W.D. Mich. Apr. 15, 2019)

School type: Public
State: Michigan
Federal Circuit: Sixth
Decision primarily favorable to: University
Stage of litigation: Motion for TRO/preliminary injunction
Keywords: Cross-examination, Due process

The court denied Plaintiff’s motion for a preliminary injunction. This case involves two women who accused Plaintiff, a third-year medical student, of nonconsensual sexual contact following a gathering at which all parties had been drinking significant quantities of alcohol. The two women filed their Title IX complaints more than two years after the party, when they were placed in the same clinical rotation as Plaintiff.

Plaintiff was placed on interim suspension, following an outside investigator’s determination that he violated the sexual misconduct policy, while awaiting the fuller hearing now required by the Sixth Circuit’s September 2018 decision in Doe v. Baum. The court considered the question of “whether there is a substantial likelihood that MSU violated John Doe’s procedural due process rights by relying on [the] Final Investigative Report to suspend him on an interim basis without giving him a formal hearing and an opportunity to cross-examine his accusers.”

Because interim disciplinary measures do not require the same level of due process as permanent ones, Plaintiff could not show a substantial likelihood of success on the merits. He was given “notice of the investigation and an opportunity to be heard during the course of the investigation by a neutral third party”; the opportunity to comment on the draft investigative report before it was finalized, and a hearing following the Final Investigative Report to address whether or not the interim suspension was warranted. The court stated:

If Plaintiff’s position were accepted, there could be no interim suspensions at universities. Instead, a university would be compelled to throw together a formal disciplinary hearing at a moment’s notice, because it would have no other option other than to allow a student to cross-examine their accusers before taking even temporary action against him or her. Nothing in the law supports such an unbalanced view of procedural due process in the university setting.

While not granting the preliminary injunction, the court did order some relief:

It is important that if [Plaintiff] John Doe should receive a favorable disposition following the Baum hearing, he remain eligible to sit for his Step Two Examination on May 22, 2019. Therefore, the Court orders MSU to establish a pre-hearing conference date not later than April 25, 2019, and a hearing date not later than May 7, 2019. The Court also ordered that a final decision shall issue in John Doe’s case not later than May 14, 2019.