Campus Due Process Litigation Tracker

Doe v. Pennsylvania State University, No. 4:18-cv-02350 (M.D. Pa. May 31, 2019)

School type: Public
State: Pennsylvania
Federal Circuit: Third
Decision primarily favorable to: University
Stage of litigation: Motion to dismiss
Keywords: Cross-examination, Due process, Evidentiary standard

The court granted the university’s motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s due process claim.

Plaintiff alleged that the university’s sexual misconduct proceedings, which resulted in a yearlong suspension, violated his constitutional due process rights. He alleged that Penn State improperly limited his ability to cross-examine his accuser and failed to provide him with an unbiased tribunal for adjudication. However, the court noted that he had the opportunity both to submit questions for his accuser and to challenge tribunal members for bias, and failed to do so, such that he could not argue that his objections were the result of Penn State’s actions. The court also noted that other courts have upheld the type of cross-examination procedure offered by Penn State, which involves pre-submitting questions to a hearing panel.

Plaintiff also alleged “that PSU violated his Due Process Clause rights by denying him ‘the active and meaningful participation of his attorney advisor.’” The court held, however, that there was no constitutional due process right to attorney participation.

Additionally, Plaintiff argued that the university’s use of the preponderance of the evidence standard was unconstitutional. The court acknowledged that “courts have split on this issue,” but found that at least in light of the other procedural protections in place (ability to pose questions, presence of an advisor, panel of multiple people), “this Court cannot say that, by itself, PSU’s use of the preponderance of the evidence standard violates the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution.”