Engel & Martin, LLC has filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of a Miami University student seeking to prevent the school from enforcing a two-year suspension imposed in a campus sexual assault case.
This case is one of many cases arising amidst a growing national controversy stemming from the Federal Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights’ (“OCR”) threats to withhold federal education funds to compel colleges and universities to address “sexual violence” on their campuses.
The student, identified only as John Doe in the Complaint, is an undergraduate student at Miami. In the fall of 2016, he engaged in consensual oral sex with a female Miami student. Prior to any physical contact, they spoke about “hooking up.” The female Miami student said that she did not “want to have sex.” She added, “But we can do other things.” The female Miami student never reported any alleged sexual misconduct to the police. Instead, almost five months later, on or about she reported to Miami that she had been sexually assaulted. Miami never conducted an investigation but, instead, merely obtained statements and information directly from the students.
In April 2017, Miami held a hearing to determine if the student had violated the school’s Sexual Misconduct Policy and the Code of Student Conduct. Part of John Doe’s claim is that the school violated his right to confront adverse witnesses when the panel relied on three unsigned written statements submitted to the female without providing the student an opportunity to cross-examine those students.
Joshua Engel, attorney for the student, explains that the student has a significant interest in avoiding unfair or mistaken exclusion from the benefits of attending Miami, including the loss of education, potential damage to the plaintiff’s reputation, and potential interference with later opportunities for education and employment. Engel further said that the lack of ability to confront adverse witnesses is important. “The purpose of cross-examination is to help find the truth,” he said. “Courts have held that cross-examination is required in a case of student discipline where the facts were in dispute. The purpose of cross-examination is to ensure that issues of credibility and truthfulness are made clear to the decision-makers. Given the importance of credibility in this Hearing, Miami should have made sure to include this important safeguard.”
This case is one of many nationwide where courts have issued injunctions prohibiting schools from implementing discipline against students accused of sexual assault. Recently, students have obtained injunctions against the University of Cincinnati, Brown University, and Notre Dame.