Campus Due Process Litigation Tracker

Doe v. Princeton University, No. 3:20-cv-04352 (D.N.J. May 1, 2020)

School type: Private
State: New Jersey
Federal Circuit: Third
Decision primarily favorable to: University
Stage of litigation: Motion for TRO/preliminary injunction
Keywords: Breach of contract, Erroneous outcome, Selective enforcement, Title IX

The court denied Plaintiff’s motion for a preliminary injunction on his Title IX and breach of contract claims.

Plaintiff was expelled from Princeton following an intimate partner violence claim brought by his ex-girlfriend, Jane Roe. The case included allegations of physical abuse made by Jane against Plaintiff and similar allegations made by Plaintiff against Jane. The university investigated both sets of claims and ultimately concluded that the evidence supported Jane’s claims, but not Plaintiff’s.

Plaintiff alleged Title IX violations under both erroneous outcome and selective enforcement theories. To establish an erroneous outcome claim, a Plaintiff must plead facts (1) casting articulable doubt on the outcome of the proceedings, and (2) connecting the erroneous outcome to gender bias. Here, the court found that Plaintiff failed on both accounts. First, the judge found there was not articulable doubt as to the outcome, holding that Princeton’s credibility determinations were “well reasoned and thorough.” Next, the judge held that Plaintiff had not made any particularized allegations of gender bias, relying instead on allegations about external criticism of Princeton’s handling of sexual misconduct claims, which alone are insufficient to establish gender bias.

Plaintiff’s selective enforcement claim turned on two allegations: (1) that Princeton had responded differently when he violated the no-contact order than when Jane did, and (2) that Princeton responded differently in investigating his claims than Jane’s claims. The court found both arguments unavailing. Plaintiff had violated the no-contact order twice, and Jane only once, which explained the university’s differential response, and there was no apparent difference in the way the university investigated the two parties’ claims.

With regard to Plaintiff’s breach of contract claim, the court held that Plaintiff had not pointed to any instance in which Princeton had violated its own policies.

Finally, the court held that Plaintiff would not suffer irreparable harm without an injunction, because the harm to him could be adequately remedied by an award of monetary damages.