Students Can Cross-Examine Sex Witnesses, Court Says

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In a ruling that could change how colleges handle sexual assault and misconduct cases, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit said university officials must give accused students the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses, reports Courthouse News Service. The court overturned a judge’s ruling against a John Doe plaintiff who claimed University of Michigan officials violated his due-process rights by siding with a young woman who accused him of sexual assault after they met in 2016 at a “Risky Business” themed fraternity party at his home. An appeals court panel concluded that the stigma of being identified as a sex offender outweighed the cost to the university in allowing cross-examinations. The University of Michigan already allows them in all other kinds of misconduct cases, Circuit Judge Amul Thapar noted.

Doe’s accuser – identified in court papers as Jane Roe – filed a sexual misconduct complaint after the incident, alleging she was too drunk to consent to sex after the pair went upstairs to the young man’s bedroom. Doe countered that the sex was consensual and she did not appear drunk. After Roe filed a sexual misconduct complaint with the university, its appeals panel overruled an investigator who recommended that they close the case. Doe withdrew from the university. He sued the university, alleging a violation of his due-process rights and gender discrimination. Given the circumstances, it was not important for Doe to cross-examine Roe and her witnesses, said a trial judge. Thapar disagreed, finding that if a university’s decision in a sexual misconduct case turns on the credibility of witnesses, then cross-examination is required.

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