A judge has ordered the University of Southern California (USC) to pay the attorney's fees of a student that it had promptly expelled after he was accused of raping a female student in violation of Title IX.
USC Expels Student After Exceptionally Weak Title IX Ruling
The facts of the case are similar to most of the other Title IX incidents.
A male and a female student were attending a “paint party” – where attendees partied and covered each other in colored paint. Importantly, red was a prominent color at the party.
The boy and girl got inebriated, hooked up, and went to the girl's apartment where she claims she was raped. The morning after, she claimed there was “blood” everywhere, though she also admitted that she was covered in paint from the party. She took photos of her colored apartment and went to the rape treatment center.
She did not go to the police. Instead, she went to USC's administration and filed a Title IX complaint. She did not provide her clothing or medical records to the Title IX investigators, and they refused to let the accused student examine them or cross-examine witnesses. The Title IX office also did not interview several important people from the incident and dismissed one witness's statement because the witness said she didn't see blood in the alleged victim's apartment.
The Title IX office used this stilted evidence to find the male student responsible and expel him. He filed a lawsuit but it got dismissed. When he appealed it, though, he won a new trial when the appellate court found that he was denied a fair hearing at the Title IX stage. He then won the second case.
Court Awards Attorney Fees for the Public Value Brought by Lawsuit
After the second case, the California trial court awarded the student $142,100 in attorney's fees.
According to the court, having USC pay the student's attorney's fees were justified because of how poorly it had acted in the underlying Title IX claim. Not only had the student won the case, but:
- His lawsuit enforced an important public right – the right of students to have a fair trial that complies with their due process rights
- He helped defend the 44,000 other students at USC, plus all future students, from USC's inadequate Title IX procedures
- He had amassed huge legal bills to get USC to change its faulty policies
Strangely, USC's arguments against awarding attorney's fees included a claim that the student was actually harming other students on campus by keeping the school from expelling sexual predators. This argument, of course, was undercut by the fact that the accused student had shown that USC's Title IX procedure was set up in a way that prevented it from actually finding out if someone had committed sexual misconduct. In essence, USC was just complaining that the student had stopped them from expelling students because it wanted to.
Joseph D. Lento: Title IX Defense
Joseph D. Lento is a Title IX defense lawyer. Call him at (888) 535-3686 or contact him online.