A male student at the University of Southern California has seen his lawsuit dismissed while the Title IX case against him proceeds. The lack of progress made in that Title IX case, though, was the reason for the lawsuit. The whole incident highlights how the Title IX system competes with the court system in ways that make it unnecessarily difficult to defend against allegations of sexual misconduct on campus.
Student Files Lawsuit Over Lengthy Title IX Case
The lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court and claims that USC's Title IX procedure should be deemed unenforceable.
The male student had been accused of attempted sexual assault, nonconsensual sexual contact, and offensively touching a woman in his dorm room back in October 2016. She was a high school friend of his and attended a different university.
USC's Title IX policies require investigations to conclude within 60 days. In this case, the Title IX investigation was still ongoing, over nine months after the complaint was filed with the school in September 2018. The male student claims that the investigation was being unreasonably delayed, that it was affecting his graduation, and that the length violated established California laws and court cases dealing with Title IX.
He also pointed to two other potential problems with USC's Title IX rules: They did not expressly allow accused students to cross-examine their accusers and allowed investigators to withhold evidence from accused students until the hearing issued its findings. Each of these problems made it far more difficult to defend against a claim of sexual misconduct.
Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Because Title IX Case Still Technically Pending
The judge, however, threw the lawsuit out, ruling that the male student still had an obligation to exhaust his administrative remedies before taking his case to court. Because the Title IX case with USC was technically still pending – delayed or not – it was not yet the appropriate time for a court to weigh in on it. Were the court to issue a ruling, the decision went on to say, it would strip the administrative Title IX process of its power.
Judicial Deference to Title IX Cases Can Cause Problems for the Accused
While it is a legally sound decision – courts have long given a lot of deference to administrative proceedings, in the Title IX context and elsewhere – the ruling hurts students who have been accused of sexual misconduct on campus. It reminds them that they have to finish the often flawed Title IX process and face the unfair sanctions that frequently come from it before even initiating a court case that is more likely to reach a reasonable outcome.
For students who are set to graduate, this can pose a serious hassle and can delay their future.
Title IX Defense Lawyer Joseph D. Lento
Joseph D. Lento is a Title IX defense lawyer and a national advisor. Contact him online or call his law office at (888) 535-3686 if you have been accused of sexual misconduct on a college campus and are facing a Title IX investigation.