When students and their families tell me that they "want to sue" after being found responsible for sexual assault at a University Hearing, they generally believe that the court can be used as a sort of "super appeals court" to have their hearing redecided on the merits; generally this is precisely what the courts will not do, but the recent John Doe v. Miami University decision has given some life to this use of the courts to challenge Title IX sexual assault cases (if you are not familiar with the facts of this case, see Part 1 of this series). The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals has said that if an accused can show "'(1) "facts sufficient to cast some articulable doubt on the accuracy of the outcome of the disciplinary proceeding" and (2) a "particularized . . . causal connection between the flawed outcome and gender bias,"'" then the accused can challenge the outcome in court with an "erroneous outcome" claim.
Most interesting is that inconsistencies in the accuser's statements to the disciplinary panel-a factor that in my experience the panels do not give much weight-were critical to the Court's findings in this case. In particular, the accuser in this case told the disciplinary panel both that she "said no" and that she "never said no" with regards to some of the alleged sexual contact. The disciplinary panel found the accused responsible for sexual assault despite this inconsistency, but the Court said the alleged inconsistency was enough for the accused's lawsuit to proceed on an "erroneous outcome" claim. The Court was also concerned that the disciplinary panel misstated its own codified standard of consent, something that frankly we have seen all too often at these hearings.
A student looking to apply this holding for his or her benefit should take note of the more onerous second requirement, however, the "causal connection between the flawed outcome and gender bias." In this case the accused's attorneys presented significant statistical evidence to demonstrate that Miami had a history of instituting disciplinary action against males, but not females, for allegations of sexual assault. Such information is often not easy to acquire at the beginning of a lawsuit.
If you have been found responsible for sexual assault at a University Title IX Hearing, or if you are currently facing such a Hearing, contact a Rittgers & Rittgers attorney experienced in handling these matters today.