Court smacks down university 'due process' ruling

  • The university reversed a ruling on "John Doe," who was accused of sexual assault, without giving him the opportunity to cross-examine his accuser.
  • A U.S. Court of Appeals weighed in on Doe's appeal in favor of the accused student's right to due process

The United States Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion in support of a lawsuit filed against the University of Michigan by an anonymous male student who was denied the right to cross-examine his accuser during the disciplinary hearing.

The lawsuit, originally filed in June, alleges that an anonymous student, “John Doe,” was denied his right to due process during an investigation after being accused of sexually assaulting another student. Doe was denied a “live hearing” as well as the ability to cross-examine his accuser. The lawsuit claims that the campus environment was “explicitly and implicitly biased against males accused of sexual assault," reported MLive

"If a public university has to choose between competing narratives to resolve a case, the university must give the accused student or his agent an opportunity to cross-examine the accuser."   

The complaint filed against Doe alleged that the student assaulted a female student at a party in March. Both Doe and the alleged victim had multiple witnesses that supported each of their claims. Due to the inconsistencies, the university’s investigator recommended Doe be found innocent of the charges. 

[RELATED: NY court slams university for denying student due process]

The alleged victim later appealed the decision, offering no additional evidence, and university officials reversed the ruling without holding a subsequent hearing with Doe, an action which spurred the current lawsuit.

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeal opinion on Friday concluded that “if a public university has to choose between competing narratives to resolve a case, the university must give the accused student or his agent an opportunity to cross-examine the accuser and adverse witnesses in the presence of a neutral fact-finder.”

The Court also noted a case it ruled on last year which “confirmed that when credibility is at issue, the Due Process Clause mandates that a university provide accused students a hearing with the opportunity to conduct cross-examination.”

[RELATED: STUDY: Most top schools deny ‘basic elements’ of due process]

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education referred to the decision as the “strongest judicial opinion to date in support of the right to cross-examination in campus judicial proceedings that turn on credibility.”

“[The University] has been fighting this for a long time. Apparently, they don’t believe that people should have the constitutional right to question their accuser and vice versa,” Doe’s attorney, Deborah Gordon, told Campus Reform. “We are continuing to pursue the case. We will be pursuing all remedies available to us, including damages.”

Campus Reform reached out to UMich for comment but received no response. The article will be updated should a response be received.

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Grace Gottschling
Grace Gottschling | Investigative Reporter

Grace Gottschling is the Investigative Reporter for Campus Reform. She is a recent graduate of The College of New Jersey and has experience traveling across the country to engage and train others in pro-life apologetics. Grace manages research and Freedom of Information Act records requests for Campus Reform.

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