Ex-UMD student challenges officials’ motion to dismiss a $5 million sexual assault lawsuit
A former University of Maryland student opposed a motion from campus administrators to dismiss his complaint in a federal lawsuit seeking $5 million.
Documents filed Monday night responded to the Feb. 3 motion from officials including university President Wallace Loh, Title IX Coordinator Catherine Carroll and Student Conduct Director Andrea Goodwin, among others. The documents also request a hearing on this motion.
The defendants, excluding Keira Martone — the assistant director for the Department of Resident Life for Student Conduct — "do not have immunity for the due process and equal protection violations visited upon the Plaintiff," the document read.
When the lawsuit was first filed, all university administrators involved in the case were named in the complaint, said Ronald Schwartz, one of the ex-student's lawyers. But Schwartz realized Martone's role in the case wasn't large enough to justify including her, he said.
"The only thing [Martone] did was give my client a letter," Schwartz said. "She was just acting as a functionary and essentially had no role in the procedure."
The ex-student and plaintiff, referred to in court documents as John Doe, claimed in the Sept. 30 complaint he was wrongfully expelled from this university after being found responsible for sexually assaulting a woman in a dorm in December 2014.
Doe alleged he was not given due process or advised of his rights during this university's sexual misconduct investigation in 2015 and was not given proper notice of investigation procedures. University officials also "filtered through the police report" and didn't let Doe tell his side of the story while ignoring certain details of the incident, Schwartz said.
Students subject to expulsion require a conduct hearing, and a five-member Standing Review Committee — made up of trained students, staff and faculty members who change for each case — must follow certain procedures to guarantee due process. This didn't happen in Doe's case, Schwartz said.
"Plaintiff had no effective notice of the nature of the complaint prior to meeting with [Special Investigator Josh Bronson]," the document read, noting there was "gross negligence" during the investigation. "It is clearly established that there is no right to provide false statements in an investigatory proceeding that causes one to be falsely charged."
During the investigation, Doe "was given many opportunities to present his side of the incident," including making a statement to University Police, meeting twice with a university investigator, submitting affidavits and testifying before the SRC, this university said in its original response.
University administrators could be dismissed on the grounds of qualified immunity, which protects federal, state or local officials who are sued, unless their conduct violates "clearly established" constitutional rights a reasonable person would have known, according to the American Bar Association.
The document filed Monday night argued administrators should not be subject to qualified immunity in this case.
"The Defendants are University of Maryland administrators who promulgated and enforced newly prescribed Sexual Misconduct Policies and Procedures that eliminated basic hearing rights that exist for all other types of student disciplinary infractions," the document read. "A procedure that provides only for an administrative review of hearsay documents is not a 'hearing or opportunity to be heard' in any meaningful sense."
Doe seeks reinstatement to this university and for all files related to the investigation to be removed from his record. At the time of his expulsion, he was three credits shy of graduation.