IU wins summary judgment in ex-student’s Title IX case

Along with granting summary judgment to Indiana University in an ex-student’s Title IX sexual misconduct lawsuit, the Southern Indiana District Court found the exercise of supplemental jurisdiction was proper and also dismissed the male student’s state law claims.

A male student using the pseudonym John Doe sued the Bloomington school after he was expelled following an internal investigation into allegations he sexually assaulted a female student, identified as Jane Doe.

According to court filings, John Doe was given the opportunity to ask questions about the investigative process and was able to submit a written statement as well as have his adviser present when he met with the investigators to answer additional questions. He was then charged with several violations of IU’s Code of Student Rights, Responsibilities and Conduct, including violating the code and policy at an off-campus event and sexual assault.

John Doe and Jane Doe did participate in an alternative dispute resolution process. But ultimately they failed to reach an agreement because the male student did not want to accept any resolution that would have resulted in his having to leave IU.

At a hearing Feb. 1, 2019, John Doe was able to present his side of the story and ask questions before a panel of three IU administrators. On Feb. 15, 2019, the panel, finding the male student was likelier than not to have taken the actions Jane Doe alleged, permanently dismissed John Doe.

The male student appealed and after the panel’s decision was upheld by the university, he filed his lawsuit in June 2019. In his complaint, the student asserted claims for violation of Title IX, due process under the 14th Amendment, breach of contract and negligence. He sought monetary damages and expungement of his expulsion from his records.

Indiana University countered with a motion for summary judgment.

On the Title IX claim, the school contended the undisputed material facts show it was not gender-biased during the investigation and hearing on the sexual misconduct allegations. John Doe conceded that his Title IX claim should be dismissed.

In addition, IU argued it has constitutional immunity under the 11th Amendment from the student’s remaining claim. John Doe responded by offering what he called a remedy of having the court dismiss the due process and state law claims, without prejudice, so he could refile the case in state court.

IU rejected the student’s remedy, asserting the school would be made to “suffer plain legal prejudice.” The school noted the parties had been litigating the case for more than a year, fact discovery was closed months ago and a trial had been set for Jan. 25, 2021. Allowing for the case to be refiled in state court would come after John Doe already had the advantage of reading IU’s summary judgment motion which laid out its arguments against the remaining claims.

The district court granted IU’s motion for summary judgment in John Doe v. Indiana University Board of Trustees, 1:19-cv-02204.

Chief Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson rejected John Doe’s request for dismissal without prejudice, finding that after more than a year of litigation the it “appears to be nothing more than an attempt to avoid a meritorious Motion for Summary Judgment.” Also, allowing the student to proceed after previewing IU’s arguments would be unfair.

Magnus-Stinson also granted summary judgment on John Doe’s Title IX and 14th Amendment due process claims as well as on the state law claims. In a footnote, the court explained its reasoning for “(exercising) supplement jurisdiction” over the breach of contract and negligence claims.

“While a district court often relinquishes jurisdiction over state law claims if all federal claims have been resolved, … the Court should balance ‘the values of judicial economy, convenience, fairness, and comity in order to decide whether to exercise jurisdiction,’” Magnus-Stinson wrote, citing Carnegie Mellon Univ. v. Cohill, 484 U.S. 343, 350 (1988). “The Court finds that the exercise of supplemental jurisdiction over John Doe’s state law claims is proper in this case. The case has been pending for over a year, and the parties have engaged in discovery and briefed a Motion for Summary Judgment. The Court has expended significant judicial resources thus far. And, most significantly and as discussed above, principles of fairness weigh in favor of the Court exercising jurisdiction over the state law claims.”

Read more about Title IX cases in higher education in the current issue of Indiana Lawyer.

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