Campus Due Process Litigation Tracker

Ruff et al. v. Board of Regents of the Univ. of New Mexico, 272 F. Supp. 3d 1289 (D.N.M. 2017)

School type: Public
State: New Mexico
Federal Circuit: Tenth
Decision primarily favorable to: University
Stage of litigation: Motion to dismiss
Keywords: Erroneous outcome, Title IX

The court granted the university’s motion to dismiss Plaintiffs’ Title IX sex discrimination claim.

Plaintiffs, three African-American students (two of whom were UNM football players), were accused of sexual assault by a white female UNM student with whom they engaged in sexual activity in April 2014. UNM police department officers filed criminal complaints against the Plaintiffs, who were arrested and charged, but the charges were ultimately dismissed. The case was also investigated pursuant to UNM’s code of conduct, but “that investigation found that there was ‘no credible or actionable evidence’ against” Plaintiffs.

Plaintiffs brought their Title IX claim under an erroneous outcome theory, which was first defined in Yusuf v. Vassar College, 35 F.3d 709 (2d Cir. 1994). To establish an erroneous outcome claim, a plaintiff must plead both (1) facts sufficient to cast articulable doubt on the outcome of the claim and (2) facts connected in the allegedly erroneous outcome to gender bias. Although the Tenth Circuit had not yet considered an erroneous outcome claim, the court “assume[d] that our Tenth Circuit would decide that Title IX includes such a claim.”

While UNM did not itself discipline the Plaintiffs, the court accepted Plaintiffs’ allegation that UNMPD officers filed criminal complaints against them without probable cause, and found that sufficient at this stage to create articulable doubt. However, the court found that Plaintiffs did not show any evidence of gender bias. While Plaintiffs pointed to outside pressure on the university created by the federal government, the court held that “[p]laintiffs must allege some fact or facts demonstrating that outside pressure actually influenced UNM, not just to aggressively pursue sexual assault cases, but to do so in a manner biased against males.”

The court granted the Plaintiffs leave to amend their Title IX complaint. However, the remainder of Plaintiffs’ claims were dismissed in a subsequent proceeding, and they did not file an amended complaint.