mead berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn bayles
due process denied
Strongest Ruling Yet Against Campus Kangaroo Courts

A federal judge has given the green light to a lawsuit challenging the legality of Brandeis University’s sexual assault proceedings in a sharply worded opinion arguing that the school has tilted the process so far in favor of accusers that it unlawfully abridges the rights of the accused. KC Johnson, an expert on campus due process who made the ruling available online, highlights the following passage:

Like Harvard, Brandeis appears to have substantially impaired, if not eliminated, an accused student’s right to a fair and impartial process. And it is not enough simply to say that such changes are appropriate because victims of sexual assault have not always achieved justice in the past. Whether someone is a “victim” is a conclusion to be reached at the end of a fair process, not an assumption to be made at the beginning. Each case must be decided on its own merits, according to its own facts. If a college student is to be marked for life as a sexual predator, it is reasonable to require that he be provided a fair opportunity to defend himself and an impartial arbiter to make that decision.

The case in question—in which a student was penalized for, among other things, kissing his boyfriend without express approval—sounds particularly egregious. Robby Soave of Reason has a good summary:

The two began dating in the fall of 2011. They broke up in the summer of 2013. In January 2014, J.C. made a two-sentence accusation against Doe, who was not informed of the nature of the charges against him. He was also denied a lawyer, the opportunity to evaluate evidence against him, and the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses, including his accuser. Brandeis uses the “special investigator” model to handle sexual assault disputes: a single administrator reviews the charges, investigates them, and makes a decision. There was no panel hearing. There was just one person’s decision. 

Ever since the Obama administration issued its “Dear Colleague” letter in 2011 ordering campuses to weaken due process protections, many universities have adopted procedures like Brandeis’s. And despite tireless advocacy by civil liberties groups, growing resistance from faculty, and political pushback from legislators, the federal pressure shows few signs of abating, and timid university administrators have not pushed back.

While the politics of this issue are complex and unpredictable, it seems unlikely that a Hillary Clinton administration eager to prove its left-wing credentials to campus activists would retreat from the Obama administration’s hard line. So it may be that the first and last line of defense of campus due process is the court system. Hopefully this powerfully argued ruling, from a respected federal judge, will influence others on the bench to carefully scrutinize these campus policies as they make their way through the courts.

Features Icon
show comments
  • Jim__L

    How much do you want to bet that if the accused guy had been straight the federal judge would never have even heard the case?

    • Andrew Allison

      Come now, Jim, the Judge was hearing a request for dismissal of a suit brought by the plaintiff. The Brandeis case is particularly egregious in that even the Special Examiner dismissed half the scorned lover’s claims. A better bet might be that if the complainant had been female, all the claims might have been dismissed. Hopefully, the penalties which Brandeis will incur will discourage campus kangaroo courts and reinstate innocent until proven guilty.

  • Andrew Allison
  • DiogenesDespairs

    I hate to say it, but lawsuits those denied due process are the answer. Big, noisy, expensive, very-bad-publicity lawsuits with endowment-emptying judgments.

    Oh, and a new administration in which the president is not one of the two Democrats running.

    Crua for president. Trump for lead contractor to build the wall. Hillary for Leavenworth.

    • jaytrain

      Emphasis on ‘expensive “: 8 figures would be a standard settlement / payment to get these mutts attention .

  • jburack

    Brandeis is one of the biggest disgraces in all this. Their treatment of Ayaan Hirsi Ali was far more of an assault than anything their kangaroo court system could charge against this poor guy. Sue them to the wall, I say – or until they learn to respect the kind of justice espoused by the man after whom their institution is named, and who must have rolled over in his grave enough already by now.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2017 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service