Campus Due Process Litigation Tracker

Doe v. Univ. of South Alabama, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 145587 (S.D. Ala. Sept. 8, 2017)

School type: Public
State: Alabama
Federal Circuit: Eleventh
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 temporary restraining order.

Plaintiff was charged with violations of The University of South Alabama’s Code of Student Conduct for allegedly sexually assaulting two different people. Plaintiff was part of the Army’s ROTC program, “through which he received full tuition scholarship and fees, as well as a monthly subsidence check and money for books.” After a disciplinary hearing, Plaintiff was found responsible for the two allegations against him. He was put on “conduct probation” for the rest of the year and was required to complete a training on sexual assault and 100 hours of community service.

Later in the year, another female student, Jane Roe 3, accused Plaintiff of having sex with her when she was too drunk to consent. Plaintiff then filed a complaint against Roe 3, alleging she had given him a sexually transmitted disease. Plaintiff was found responsible, and Roe 3 was found not responsible. Plaintiff appealed the determination and the university “found that the charge against [him] should be heard again during a new proceeding with a different committee,” since some of the same university administrators were involved in both of Plaintiff’s earlier disciplinary proceedings. The new committee found Plaintiff responsible for the allegations brought by Roe 3. Plaintiff was suspended and “prohibited from visiting the campus for any reason without prior clearance . . . .” Plaintiff sued the university seeking a TRO and a preliminary injunction.

In order to be granted a TRO, a party must establish that there is a “substantial likelihood of success on the merits.” The court held Plaintiff had failed to demonstrate there was a substantial likelihood that he would succeed on his due process claim: “Plaintiff was given notice of the charges and the evidence contained in the investigation report and was given the opportunity to present an opening statement and to present witnesses or other evidence to address any discrepancies in the statements,” which the court held was sufficient procedural due process. Moreover, Plaintiff claimed he was not able to cross-examine his accuser, but the court pointed out that “Plaintiff was permitted to orally pose questions to the presiding officer who then posed the questions to Roe 3,” which the court established was essentially cross-examination “in a meaningful way.” The court also held Plaintiff failed to show that university administrators acted in a manner that was “overtly biased.”