Campus Due Process Litigation Tracker

Doe v. Occidental College, 37 Cal. App. 5th 1003 (Cal. Ct. App. 2019)

School type: Private
State: California
Federal Circuit: Ninth
Decision primarily favorable to: University
Stage of litigation: Motion for summary judgment
Keywords:

The appellate court affirmed the denial of Plaintiff’s petition for a writ of mandate to set aside Occidental’s decision to expel him for sexual misconduct.

Plaintiff was accused by a female student of forcible sexual assault: nonconsensual vaginal and anal penetration after she repeatedly said no. After receiving a stay-away letter from the college directing him to have no contact with his accuser, he went to the office of an administrator who served as a survivor advocate and became very angry, saying things about how women “tease” men and “owe him something” and causing the administrator to become frightened.

After Plaintiff violated the stay-away order, his accuser filed a formal complaint and he was placed on an interim suspension. Several months later, following an investigation and hearing, he was permanently expelled. He petitioned for a writ of administrative mandate, which requires the court to determine “whether [Occidental] has proceeded without, or in excess of, jurisdiction; whether there was a fair trial; and whether there was any prejudicial abuse of discretion.”

Plaintiff first alleged that Occidental denied him notice until after the college completed its investigation, in March 2014. The court held that the notice Plaintiff received when the complaint was first filed was sufficient: “that notice advised Doe that Roe was ‘alleging an incident of sexual misconduct,’ a term used in the policy, ‘on or about September 28-29, 2013.’ The notice contained links to the policy and the student code of conduct, and provided contact information if Doe had questions about the complaint.”

Plaintiff also alleged that the college violated his rights by suspending him without notice, but the court found that the college was within its rights since Plaintiff had violated the stay-away order and the college had “authority in the face of an immediate threat of harm to the safety or well-being of an individual.”

The court also rejected Plaintiff’s allegations that (1) he was prejudiced by the fact that the complaint was not resolved within 60 days, (2) he did not have access to all of the evidence (he did: he was given electronic access to “all of the investigation’s documents and evidence”), and (3) that the college’s adjudicator was biased against him (the court did not consider this claim since Plaintiff had failed to raise it at the administrative level or in the trial court).