University loses appeal in case on sexual assault hearings
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is declining to rehear a case decided by a three-judge panel of the court that ruled the University of Michigan must give the accused the right to cross-examine their accuser in University-adjudicated sexual assault cases. The University’s only further option for appeal is the Supreme Court now.
University spokeswoman Kim Broekhuizen told the Detroit Free Press the University is currently studying the ruling before it makes a decision on whether to appeal. If the University decides not to appeal the case, the ruling would apply to all colleges and universities in the Sixth Circuit, which includes Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee, thus requiring them to reconfigure their procedures for sexual assault hearings and investigations. The ruling could also be used as justification for rulings in trial courts and appeals courts outside of the Sixth Circuit.
“(The issue in the case) is one of exceptional importance that will affect disciplinary proceedings in virtually all public universities in the Circuit,” the University wrote in its filing. “This ruling will have a significant impact on all educational institutions within the Circuit and will raise the cost, and prevalence, of Title IX litigation.”
A male student sued the University after eventually being expelled in May 2016 as the result of a University hearing in which he was accused of sexually assaulting a female student. After a trial court ruled in the University’s favor, the student brought the case to the circuit court.
The male student’s attorney, Deborah Gordon, said allowing the accuser to be questioned in such cases was a matter of due process.
“I fail to see why the university continues to spend tax payer dollars defending a policy that deprives students of due process of law when the stakes are the highest," Gordon wrote in a statement. "The purpose of due process is to get at the truth, which can only benefit both parties. But the university apparently believes its female students are too fragile to question and be questioned. I strongly disagree. Based on my long career representing women in sexual harassment cases I know women are more than capable of standing up for themselves.”