NEW YORK, July 29, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In a significant ruling on the issue of Title IX in campus sexual assault investigations, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit today vacated a district court decision and will allow a male student's lawsuit against Columbia University to proceed. The Second Circuit clarified the standard for accused students pleading a violation of Title IX, and suggests the possibility of a Title VII framework, which would be much better for males suing schools due to alleged sexual discrimination.
The student claims Columbia University violated his due process rights and discriminated against him based on his gender in a wrongful sexual misconduct investigation that resulted in his suspension. The plaintiff is represented by attorney Andrew Miltenberg, who specializes in Campus Assault Due Process, and the appeal was argued by Philip A. Byler, of Nesenoff & Miltenberg, LLP.
"From the outset, Columbia University manipulated this investigation and engaged in gender bias against the accused, ignoring evidence and conflicting accounts presented by witnesses; motivated, in part, by public pressure," said Miltenberg. "This case illustrates the critically flawed process by which sexual misconduct investigations are handled at many colleges and universities, including Columbia, where there is an inherent bias against the accused male students, and recognizes that public criticism of Columbia University policies as not being aggressive enough towards men, provided a plausible inference of discriminatory bias against males."
In granting the Plaintiff's appeal, the Second Circuit ruled that the case has the legal standing to proceed on the grounds that Columbia University engaged in systematic gender bias and breach of contract in mishandling a sexual misconduct investigation against the plaintiff. The outcome of this case could set an important precedent in the manner in which colleges and universities conduct sexual misconduct investigations in regards to Title IX, which prohibits gender discrimination in education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance.
The court documents show that the plaintiff, referred to as John Doe, engaged in a consensual relationship with his accuser in May of 2012 and was notified of the allegations against him the following school year, in September of 2013. The day following Doe's notification of the allegation, the University issued an order barring him from contacting his accuser and restricting his access to residence halls on campus. The Title IX investigator, whose experience and background were not gender neutral, was charged with creating the narrative account that was eventually adopted by the disciplinary panel. Despite being told there were witnesses who could confirm the encounter was consensual, the Title IX investigator remained hostile to the Plaintiff and failed to reconcile the accuser's account with conflicting information presented by witnesses. According to the complaint, the investigator's questioning of the plaintiff was akin to cross-examination calculated to elicit confession. Additionally, the University representative failed to tell the accused male student that he could submit his own written statement to the disciplinary panel and failed to advise him that he was entitled to seek the support of a student advocate or consult with legal counsel.
The Second Circuit vacated the district court's judgment dismissing the case and remanded the complaint for further proceedings.
SOURCE Nesenoff and Miltenberg, LLP