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Students file class-action lawsuits against Cal State, UC for depriving them due process under Title IX

UC Title IX coordinator reiterates that she will ignore judges

When a federal appeals court ruling opened the floodgates to class-action litigation against universities in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee for depriving accused students of due process, a pioneering lawyer took advantage of it.

California state courts have also proven friendly to the victims of Title IX kangaroo courts, leading another lawyer to file class-action suits against the 10-campus University of California and 23-campus California State University systems in the past month.

And yet again, the Title IX coordinator for the UC system is pledging to ignore judicial orders until forced to comply.

The Los Angeles Times reports on the new lawsuits on behalf of UC and Cal State students by Mark Hathaway, who has represented several students in successful actions against their California institutions, public and private:

The lawsuits mark an emerging strategy by students accused of sexual misconduct to use class-action lawsuits to force universities to set aside, en masse, findings and sanctions that led to their suspension or expulsion. The nation’s first class action was filed July 5 against Michigan State University, followed by Cal State on July 16 and UC this week. The Cal State and UC lawsuits cover all students who were suspended or expelled since June 2015, when both systems issued new Title IX policies that sought to be more sensitive to victims.

Brett Sokolow, president of the Assn. of Title IX Administrators, called class action a “clever approach” that would make legal action accessible to potentially thousands of students unable to afford personal lawsuits. …

“If one case succeeds,” Sokolow said, “it opens the floodgates for others.”

MORE: UC dares courts to make it provide due process to accused students

Hathaway claims the revised procedures by each system – which supposedly comply with state rulings that require hearings, cross-examination and an end to “single investigator” models – are still out of compliance with the law.

UC just issued new policies that lets “any student dissatisfied with preliminary determinations and proposed sanctions” – not just under “limited circumstances” – request a hearing, the Times reports. Cal State, which used to offer hearings only after sanctions had been proposed, will now hold them before responsibility has been found.

They still bar direct cross-examination by students’ representatives, Hathaway noted: The hearing officer has the discretion to decide which questions for the other party are “irrelevant or harassing.” Having to answer such questions may in fact harm a party’s credibility or reveal exculpatory evidence.

Suzanne Taylor, Title IX coordinator for the UC system, again made clear that UC will ignore court orders until officials like her are practically in contempt of court.

She had previously construed a California appeals court ruling as only requiring cross-examination at the appellate level, even though that court had favorably cited the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling against the University of Michigan – the basis for the first class-action suit.

To follow the court rulings in their most reasonable light would be to “create an adversarial process, and it would make our process much more like a criminal proceeding, and so that’s something that we absolutely will not do unless we have to,” Taylor told the Times.

The UC system is already required by its own courts to allow an “adversarial process,” however.

Taylor’s insistence that court rulings do not mean what they say may be a function of her service in the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. While she started in George W. Bush’s second term, she helped shepherd through the Obama administration’s sweeping reinterpretation of Title IX, which sparked the flood of litigation by Hathaway and other lawyers.

She told the Times that Title IX adjudications should not be adversarial because “consequences can be far more severe” under criminal trials. Being found responsible by a university is still tantamount to being branded a sex offender by a court of law, in lost earnings, career and educational opportunities, and reputation.

Read the article.

MOREIt’s not the first time Suzanne Taylor has dared the courts

MOREFirst class-action filed against university for Title IX violations

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg spent several years as a technology policy reporter and editor for Warren Communications News in Washington, D.C., and guest host on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators.” He co-founded the alternative newspaper PUNCH and served as a reporter, editor and columnist for The Falcon at Seattle Pacific University.

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