University Sexual Assault Investigation Into Student Can Go Forward, Judge Rules

“John Doe” is suing the University, alleging anti-male bias in its application of Title IX.

By Adam Thorp and Editor-in-Chief ('18–'19)

The University can continue its sexual assault investigation of a student who filed a lawsuit accusing the University of anti-male bias, the judge in the case ruled Thursday.

The student, referred to as “John Doe” in court documents, sought a ruling from the judge that would have temporarily stopped the University from proceeding with its investigation. His lawyer argued that the investigation’s rules were unfair and that allowing it to continue could pose a risk to “John Doe’s” mental health.

“John Doe” has been accused of sexual assault by two female students. The University’s investigation into the first accusation was decided in his favor in 2014. The investigation into the second accusation, filed earlier this year by a student referred to as “Jane Doe” in court, will continue after Thursday’s ruling.  “John Doe” filed suit in August against the University, which he said demonstrated a “gender-based, hostile environment against males” in its handling of the two cases.

He is also suing “Jane Doe” for defamation based on her posts to social media, which implicitly accused him of assaulting her.

“Jane Doe” filed her complaint against him this June. “John Doe” filed his own complaint later that month, saying that her accusation was retaliation for his earlier attempt to file a complaint accusing her of harassment.

When “John Doe” filed his lawsuit, he asked for a court order to temporarily halt the University’s investigation into “Jane Doe’s” complaint. His lawyers said the way the University planned to pursue its investigation was not in keeping with its stated commitment to due process and threatened to inflict “irreparable harm” on “John Doe.”

In a court appearance on September 14, Judge Edmond Chang considered arguments for a preliminary injunction, a legal instrument that would have prevented the University from continuing its investigation. At that hearing, “John Doe’s” lawyers asked that the University’s investigation into “Jane Doe’s” complaint be stopped until his lawsuit is resolved. In the hearing and later filings, “John Doe’s” lawyers presented evidence that “John Doe” had committed self-harm as a result of the stress brought on by the investigation and that continuing the investigation would further threaten his mental health.

The University’s counsel argued in the hearing that the motion was an attempt to “micromanage” internal University processes. Chang suggested at that hearing that in light of the evidence presented on “John Doe’s” mental health, the University should proceed carefully, and said he would consider the injunction.

On Thursday, Chang ruled that the University’s investigation could proceed. “John Doe’s” lawsuits against the University and “Jane Doe” will continue; another appearance before the judge is scheduled for November 1. The reasoning behind the decision to reject the injunction will remain under seal until all parties have had an opportunity to argue as to what portion of the decision should be permanently withheld.

Editor’s Note: Based on information available in now-public court documents, it is possible to identify the parties in this lawsuit. The Maroon chose not to identify them because “John Doe” is a plaintiff in a defamation lawsuit, and reporting his name might further this alleged defamation, and because “Jane Doe” alleges that she is a victim of sexual assault, and The Maroon, like many media organizations, does not report the names of alleged victims of sexual assault without the victim’s permission in cases when the victim’s name is not widely known.