Bench Memos

Law & the Courts

Judge Barrett on Title IX Protections for Accused Students

Writing for a unanimous panel in Doe v. Purdue University, Judge Amy Coney Barrett ruled that John Doe, the pseudonym of a student suspended by Purdue University for supposedly having committed sexual violence, could pursue his claim that Purdue had discriminated against him “on the basis of sex” in violation of Title IX. Given the issue, I will note that all three judges on the panel were women.

The legal question in the case was whether Doe had adequately pleaded a claim under Title IX.* In order to meet that threshold, Doe had to allege facts sufficient to support an inference that Purdue acted against him at least partly on the basis of sex. Barrett determined that he had. In particular, Doe alleged that the college official who found him guilty of committing sexual violence found his accuser credible even though she had never spoken with the accuser or even received a written statement from her. (A Title IX coordinator relayed the accuser’s account.) In addition, Doe alleged that advisors to the official likewise credited the victim based on the accusation alone, made up their minds without reading the investigative report and before even talking to Doe, refused to hear from his witnesses, and were openly hostile to him when they did meet with him.

Barrett determined that Doe plausibly alleged that the official and advisors chose to believe the accuser because she is a woman and to disbelieve Doe because he is a man.

In the 15 months since she issued her ruling, her opinion has already been cited extensively by courts across the country (including the Third Circuit, the Sixth Circuit, the Ninth Circuit, and the Tenth Circuit).

* A separate question, on which the panel also reversed the lower court, was whether Doe had adequately pleaded that Purdue had violated his right to procedural due process. See pp. 8-24.

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