Campus Due Process Litigation Tracker

Pacheco v. St. Mary’s University, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 94510 (W.D. Tex. June 20, 2017)

School type: Private
State: Texas
Federal Circuit: Fifth
Decision primarily favorable to: University
Stage of litigation: Motion for summary judgment
Keywords: Breach of contract, Erroneous outcome, Selective enforcement, Title IX

The court granted the university’s motion for summary judgment.

Plaintiff and the complainant were students at St. Mary’s University (University), a private Catholic university. After a night of heavy drinking, Plaintiff and complainant went back to his room. When friends of complainant’s heard noises and entered the room, they saw Plaintiff standing with his underwear around his ankles and complainant lying motionless on the bed with her skirt pulled up. Both were visibly intoxicated. They helped complainant get out and a sorority sister called the campus police. After police investigation, Plaintiff was charged with 3rd Degree Sexual Assault by the District Attorney’s office and was imposed a sanction of temporary suspension by the University.

The campus hearing board found Pacheco to be in violation of the University’s sexual misconduct policies. The parties disagreed as to whether Plaintiff was allowed an attorney during the proceedings and whether he was allowed to cross-examine witnesses. While criminal charges were eventually dropped, Pacheco’s appeal was denied and he was subsequently suspended from the University.

Plaintiff sued the University claiming Title IX violations, breach of contract, and negligence.

On Pacheco’s breach of contract claim, the court ruled that while there was likely a contract between the University and Pacheco, he had failed to introduce evidence that showed the contract was breached. On Pacheco’s negligence claim, the court held that his claims “sound in contract” and that the duties owed by the University were those implied in a contractual relationship, not in tort.

On Plaintiff’s Title IX claim, the court held that he had failed to demonstrate that the outcome of the Title IX investigation was erroneous or that punishment was selectively imposed because of his male gender. Pacheco argues that complainant was in a similar position as he was on the evening of the incident (partially clothed and intoxicated), but was treated favorably by the University. The University responded that complainant “was not half naked, aroused and attempting sexual intercourse on a comatose plaintiff,” and the court agreed.