Campus Due Process Litigation Tracker

Doe v. University of Denver, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 40926 (D. Colo. Mar. 13, 2018)

School type: Private
State: Colorado
Federal Circuit: Tenth
Decision primarily favorable to: University
Stage of litigation: Motion for summary judgment
Keywords: Due process, Selective enforcement, State action, Title IX

The university’s motion for summary judgment was granted.

In the fall of 2014, Plaintiff was enrolled at the University of Denver (“DU”), a private university. After a student, Jane Roe, filed a complaint, Plaintiff was found to have committed non-consensual sexual contact and was dismissed from the university. He was given the opportunity to “object to the participation of a member of the Outcome Council based on a demonstrable significant bias” but did not believe any member would be biased at the time.

After his dismissal, he brought suit alleging Title IX and due process violations, as well as breach of contract claims.

On Plaintiff’s constitutional due process claims, the court recognized that the Fourteenth Amendment normally applies only to state actors, but that an exception exists when “there is such a close nexus between the State and the challenged action that seemingly private behavior may be fairly treated as that of the State itself.” Brentwood Academy v. Tenn. Secondary Sch. Athletic Ass’n, 531 U.S. 288, 295 (2001). Plaintiff argues that a factual dispute exists as to whether “DU was transformed into a state actor when it became entwined with the federal government, which coerced it into adopting punitive Title IX policies and procedures under threat of legal action and the loss of federal funding.” The court held that receiving state funding alone would be insufficient to transform DU into a state actor. Additionally, the court cited prior case law and decisions by other circuits to reject the argument that compliance with Title IX would transform a private university into a state actor.

On Plaintiff’s Title IX claim, the court found that there was no genuine issue of material fact as to whether Plaintiff’s dismissal was motivated by selective enforcement based on gender bias. Specifically, the court reasoned that DU was not responsible for the fact that the vast majority of complaints were initiated by female students. Plaintiff also failed to demonstrate that awareness-raising campaigns on campus and the past experiences of investigators were evidence of gender bias.

The court declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s state law claims and dismissed them without prejudice.