PRESS RELEASE 9/13/2016: John Doe who sued Brandeis University in 2015, voluntarily dismisses his lawsuit
Patricia M. Hamill, a partner with the Philadelphia law firm Conrad O’Brien PC, announced today that her client, a former Brandeis University student who sued Brandeis in 2015 under the pseudonym John Doe, has decided to voluntarily dismiss his lawsuit in a Stipulated Dismissal joined by Brandeis. Hamill, who spoke on behalf of her client in order to preserve his privacy and anonymity, explained that John Doe felt vindicated by the decision rendered by Judge F. Dennis Saylor, denying Brandeis’s motion to dismiss the case and stating John Doe plausibly alleged “that Brandeis denied [him] the ‘basic fairness’ to which he was entitled.”Judge Saylor’s decision reflected concern with the alleged unfairness of Brandeis’ process:“Brandeis appears to have substantially impaired, if not eliminated, an accused student’s right to a fair and impartial process.”Doe v. Brandeis University, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 43449 *15 (D. Mass. Mar. 31, 2016).Moreover, Judge Saylor noted that the complaint raised questions as to the substantive findings against Doe: “Because the procedures employed by Brandeis did not afford the accused ‘basic fairness,’ the substantive result reached as a result of that process is open to serious doubt. However, the complaint also raises serious concerns as to the substantive result, even if one assumes that the process was otherwise procedurally fair.” Doe v. Brandeis University. 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 43499 *107 (D. Mass. Mar. 31, 2016). Hamill also cited John Doe’s concern with the expense of continuing the litigation and personal reasons, including his desire to get on with his professional and private life, as reasons for the voluntary withdrawal.Unaffected by the voluntary withdrawal of the lawsuit is John Doe’s Title IX complaint filed against Brandeis with the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR), the federal agency that regulates and enforces compliance with Title IX. (Title IX is the federal law that prohibits educational institutions that receive federal funds from discriminating against their students on the basis of sex.) The OCR has accepted John Doe’s Title IX complaint and the agency’s investigation of Brandeis is ongoing.The OCR Title IX complaint is wholly separate and apart from the federal court complaint and is not affected by John Doe’s withdrawal of the federal court lawsuit.John Doe’s federal lawsuit, which garnered significant media attention, was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts and alleged claims for breach of contract, negligence, defamation, and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress. John Doe v. Brandeis University, Civil Action No. 15-11557-FDS. The lawsuit arose out of Brandeis’s handling of a two-sentence charge made by John Doe’s ex-boyfriend to Brandeis accusing John Doe of inappropriate, nonconsensual sexual interactions with him during their nearly two-year exclusive, dating relationship.
The lawsuit alleged that Brandeis’s handling of those allegations breached Brandeis’s own written policies and procedures, and that Brandeis’s then-new “Special Examiner Process” used to investigate and adjudicate sexual misconduct allegations was a deeply flawed and fundamentally unfair process.The lawsuit challenged the Special Examiner’s findings, alleging the evidence did not support the findings and, further,wrongly elevated commonplace, everyday interactions in a nearly two-year romantic relationship into serious sexual transgressions.