A federal magistrate judge has recommended that James Madison University pay nearly $850,000 in attorney’s fees for CIR’s case defending a JMU student who was suspended without due process. A university panel initially found the student, accused of sexual assault, not guilty. A flawed appeals system used by the university, a secret faculty panel found the him guilty without giving him the chance to respond to all the evidence or accusations.
The case involved a girl ‘Jane Roe’ the student ‘John Doe’ had been dating who accused him of sexual assault and took her charge to the campus authorities. James Madison, after an initial hearing found that Doe was “not responsible.”
However, Roe filed an appeal with a campus board, which would have been barred by the double-jeopardy clause of the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution if this had been a criminal prosecution in a court instead of a campus proceeding. The ability to do this stems from the Obama administration’s “Dear Colleague” letter sent out to universities in 2011 threatening to withhold federal funding unless they changed their procedures for handling sexual-assault claims (which violated basic due-process rights). This letter told the universities to weaken already minimal due-process protections for students accused of rape and sexual assault. That included lowering the standard of proof, prohibiting cross-examination of the accuser, not allowing the accused to be represented by a lawyer, and accepting these “double jeopardy” appeals by alleged victims in cases where the original tribunal found in favor of the alleged perpetrator.
The appeal was heard by a board of three university professors, who would not permit Doe to appear, who examined no witnesses, and who reviewed additional evidence submitted by Roe without allowing Doe even to see some of it. Jane Roe presented a voicemail from a friend at another university in an effort to prove she was intoxicated on the night of the alleged rape. However, a screenshot of the voicemail showed that the message had been left the evening prior to the night of the alleged assault.
One of the appeal-board members, Professor Dana Haraway, admitted she didn’t realize this until after Doe filed his lawsuit. Roe also alleged that her roommate had lied when she testified in the original hearing that Roe was not intoxicated the night Roe claims she was raped. Roe said her roommate was trying to “cover her tracks” because the roommate had been drinking, too. These pieces of evidence were never presented to Doe, rendering him incapable of defending himself against them.
Because of school policy, Doe was barred from contacting Roe’s roommate to further question her original testimony or even ask her to reaffirm her previous statements. The appeals board also didn’t bother to question either Roe or the roommate about these contradictory claims. Without giving any explanation for its decision to overrule the campus tribunal, the appeals board suspended Doe from the university for five years.
That decision was reviewed by Mark Warner, JMU’s senior vice president of student affairs and university planning, who affirmed the appeal board’s decision — also without explanation. Doe’s readmission would be allowed only if he completed “an education/counseling program and then reapplied” after half a decade. And, even if readmitted, he would be banned from “Greek involvement and functions.”
Doe wasn’t told about the decision of the appeal board until Warner had finalized his punishment. Doe had no opportunity to provide any input to Warner. And pursuant to JMU’s policy, the entire “charge file was shredded shortly thereafter.” That policy makes an independent review of the University difficult.
After three years of litigation against the university, a federal judge ruled in Doe’s favor and ordered James Madison to allow him to return. Doe chose to enroll elsewhere. This month, a United States magistrate recommended that James Madison pay Doe $849,231.25 for attorney fees and litigation costs.
The Doe case is not unusual. In 2013, three mothers founded a non-profit organization called Families Advocating for Campus Equality, or FACE for short after their sons were falsely accused of sexual misconduct at college trials.
FACE’s documentation reveals lives have been upended by fake accusations.
The book “The Campus Rape Frenzy: The Attack on Due Process at America’s Universities” documents other stories of students falsely accused of rape by fellow university students.
“If colleges have employed ideological zealots to investigate and help decide sexual misconduct cases, they’re heading for a recurring series of high-cost, high-profile losing confrontations with the courts. The end result will be a nationwide loss of legitimacy in college policies and our capacity to govern ourselves.” –Gary Pavela, higher education law expert.