Campus Due Process Litigation Tracker

Doe v. Syracuse University, 341 F. Supp. 3d 125 (N.D.N.Y. 2018)

School type: Private
State: New York
Federal Circuit: Second
Decision primarily favorable to: Student
Stage of litigation: Motion to dismiss
Keywords: Erroneous outcome, Selective enforcement, Title IX

The court denied the university’s motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s Title IX claims, but granted its motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s state law claims.

Plaintiff was found responsible for sexual misconduct following an incident in which he and his accuser, Jane Roe, had sex after a party at which both had been drinking heavily.

On Plaintiff’s erroneous outcome claim, the court found that while some of Plaintiff’s allegations “border on being ‘mere conclusory statements … not entitled to the assumption of truth,’” he had pled other facts that, at the motion to dismiss stage, were sufficient to cast articulable doubt on the outcome of his proceeding, including:

“[T]he Investigator noted that Roe’s description of events in Doe’s room was ‘splotchy;’ . . . that Roe appeared to utilize the disciplinary process as a means to punish Doe by alleging that he violated the No Contact Order when he entered the dining hall and by alleging that Doe ‘physically assaulted’ another female student during a sexual encounter because Doe gave this student a hickey; that the investigation revealed that both Doe and Roe were highly intoxicated but applied the presumption of the inability to knowingly consent to sexual intercourse only to Roe; that Syracuse failed to adequately investigate and question Roe’s credibility; that Syracuse limited questions and commentary of investigatory findings to Roe’s emotional state and interactions with friends and family in the days and weeks after the alleged incident; that Syracuse ‘failed to examine many of the blatant contradictions in Jane Roe’s statements;’ and that the Investigator, the University Conduct Board, the Appeals Board, and the Syracuse official who ultimately reviewed the appeal chose to believe Roe’s description of events in Doe’s room even though Roe indicated that she had very little memory of the Incident.”

Citing the Second Circuit’s decision in Doe v. Columbia, the court held that these allegations — coupled with evidence that Syracuse was under public pressure to “more aggressively prosecute sexual abuse allegations” — were sufficient at this stage to suggest that gender bias may have been a motivating factor.

The Court also held there was enough evidence to sustain a selective enforcement claim because Jane did not want to formally bring the claim against Plaintiff, but the University took the initiative to do so.

The Court dismissed Plaintiff’s negligence and breach of contract claims.