Campus Due Process Litigation Tracker

Montague v. Yale University, No. 3:16-cv-00885 (D. Conn. Mar. 29, 2019)

School type: Private
State: Connecticut
Federal Circuit: Second
Decision primarily favorable to: Student
Stage of litigation: Motion for summary judgment
Keywords: Basic fairness, Breach of contract, Erroneous outcome, Title IX

University’s motion for summary judgment denied in part and granted in part.

During his freshman year, Montague was found responsible for sexual misconduct (UWC I) over an incident in which he had allegedly folded up a used pizza plate and stuck it down a female classmate’s shirt.

More than a year after the fact, Yale’s Title IX office filed a complaint (UWC II) alleging that Montague had committed sexual assault against a female student, Jane Roe, with whom he’d had a sexual relationship. Although there were several incidents of consensual sexual intercourse, Jane Roe alleged that on one occasion, Montague had sex with her over her objections and without her consent. He was found responsible and, in part because he was already on disciplinary probation over UWC I, was expelled from Yale.

Yale argued that the court owed great deference to its disciplinary decisions, but — echoing other recent court decisions — the court held that while this was indeed true in academic cases, the same degree of judicial deference was not owed in other disciplinary matters, including sexual misconduct cases.

Montague brought breach of contract claims based on both UWC proceedings. He claimed that the UWC did not actually have jurisdiction over his first claim because it did not constitute sexual misconduct; the court granted Yale summary judgment on this claim. He also claimed that the hearing panel’s finding was contrary to Yale’s sexual misconduct policies. The court granted Yale summary judgment on this claim as well.

With regard to the UWC procedure, the court denied summary judgment to Yale on a number of Montague’s breach of contract claims, including:

  • Montague’s claim that Yale violated its own confidentiality policies during the UWC II procedure when it divulged certain information about his UWC I proceedings to the complainant.
  • Montague’s claim that Yale manipulated its own procedures by pressuring Jane Roe to file a complaint and agreeing to do so on her behalf when she didn’t want to do it on her own. The court found that there is a contested issue of material fact “regarding whether Yale pressured or coerced Roe into filing a formal complaint.”
  • Montague’s claim that Yale violated its procedures by allowing Roe to fully participate in the proceedings against him even though she was not the named complainant.
  • Montague’s claim that an administrator who had participated in a meeting with Roe — a meeting at which Roe may have been convinced to proceed with a formal complaint — later appointed himself to the hearing panel.
  • Montague’s claim that the university had not proven sexual misconduct by a preponderance of the evidence. The court found that “there is a genuine issue of material fact with respect to the impartiality of the hearing, given the disputed evidence presented in the other breach of contract claims.”
  • Montague’s claim that Yale breached its duty of basic fairness, given the issues of material fact that remain with regard to his other breach of contract claims.

The court granted summary judgment to Yale on Montague’s Title IX claim, holding that Montague had failed to produce the necessary evidence of things like statements by members of the tribunal, etc., that would be necessary to sustain a claim of “erroneous outcome” gender discrimination.