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Newsletter > June 2023 > "University of Cincinnati Sued by Title IX Respondent"
University of Cincinnati Sued by Title IX Respondent
Abby Napier, Fraternal Law Partners, firstname.lastname@example.org
The University of Cincinnati (the “University”) has been named as a defendant in a lawsuit alleging inadequacies in its Title IX investigation procedures. John Noakes (an alias), a student at the University, was accused of sexually assaulting another student, Jane Roe, in September 2021 at a fraternity party. He was found responsible for violating the University’s Title IX policies, but was never criminally charged for the incident.
In the lawsuit, Noakes asserts violations of Title IX, stating the University “has adopted practices that reinforce and rely upon gender stereotypes,” and violations of the Due Process Clause in the handling of his case. Specifically, the Complaint alleges: Noakes was denied access to information regarding the substance of the claim both before the formal Title IX complaint was filed and after he was notified of the charges; requests and comments made by Noakes regarding the incident were omitted from the investigation report or were misstated therein; participation of biased hearing panel members who were paid consultants; and an overall lack of respect from the University regarding students’ due process rights.
Being subject to this sort of litigation is not new to the University, as it is currently being sued by two female ballet students for mishandling their Title IX complaints about a classmate engaging in inappropriate physical contact during dance rehearsals and performances. Additionally, the University has been reported to have paid out almost two million dollars more in lawsuit settlements in a variety of claims including investigations, Title IX claims, and civil rights violations, than five other universities in the area, and the University is the subject of five open Title IX investigations by the U.S. Department of Education.
This is not unique to the University of Cincinnati either, as cases of this nature continue to arise around the country as more students claim violations of their rights by their university’s procedures in addressing sexual misconduct claims. Fraternal Law previously reported on a lawsuit filed against the University of Southern California (USC) claiming similar deficiencies in their procedures, asserting USC failed to follow their own codified procedures, failings in the consideration of evidence, and succumbing to pressures from the media. However, circuit courts across the country are struggling to determine exactly what the Title IX process requirements are. A new Supreme Court amicus brief filed in the case of Van Overdam v. Texas A&M University describes the patchwork of circuit holdings. The Second Circuit requires “extratextual doctrinal elements” not within the federal statute in the initial complaint, the Seventh Circuit requires a simple allegation of sex-based discrimination, and the Eleventh Circuit requires the plaintiff to “disprove other potential non-discriminatory causes of discipline.” 
This lack of uniformity has led to confusion among students and administrators on how to properly handle claims of this nature, and the stakes are high. There is the potential that accused individuals will be wrongfully expelled from campus, and contrarily, the potential that victim complaints will not be properly investigated and adjudicated to protect them from harmful individuals. On top of that, universities deserve clarity on how they should approach these issues to best strike the balance between the two parties and avoid the litigation that many are consumed in now. While it may seem that all groups interests are divergent form each other, that is not the case. Every party involved is pushing for more definite standards on how to address this growing problem. Everybody wants their side to be heard and feel as though their rights are respected throughout the process.
There continues to be a larger, more political issue looming over these cases—the promises from the Biden Administration to revise the Title IX Regulations so as to fundamentally alter procedural requirements for universities.Noakes Complaint contends that these potential changes, along with pressure from the federal government urging universities to comply with these standards, contributed to the denial of is procedural due process rights during the University of Cincinnati’s adjudication of his alleged misconduct.
Josh Engel, attorney for John Noakes and the two ballet students from the University of Cincinnati, emphasized that no one, victims nor the accused, is happy with the procedures being used by the University. This is a sentiment across the country and one that is deserving of a clear answer for individuals and universities moving forward. Hopefully, the Supreme Court will step in and provide guidance on these issues moving forward.
 Abby Napier is a law clerk at Manley Burke and is a rising third-year law student at the University of Kentucky.
 Complaint at ¶ 54, Noakes v. Univ. of Cincinnati, No. 1:23-cv-00284 (S.D. Ohio, May 15, 2023).
 Id. at ¶ 2.
 See generally, id. at ¶¶ 3, 24, 65, 96.
 Paula Christian, Ballet Dancers Sue University of Cincinnati in Sexual Misconduct Case, Journal News (Aug. 25,2022),https://www.journal-news.com/news/ballet-dancers-sue-university-of-cincinnati-in-sexual-misconduct-case/7WJPBRALVRCARFTPPDMHS2CRCA/.
 Paula Christian, Data: UC Pays Out More Settlements Than Five Other Universities Combined, WCPO (June 1, 2023, 5:40 PM), https://www.wcpo.com/news/local-news/i-team/data-uc-pays-out-more-settlements-than-five-other-universities-combined.
 Ilana Linder, New Suit Alleging Procedural Deficiencies Filed Against USC, 178 Fraternal L. 5 (Jan. 2023).
 Amicus Brief, Van Overdam v. Texas A&M University, et al, 2023 U.S. S. Ct. Briefs Lexis 1486 (2023).
 Id. at 9.
 Tim Burke previously wrote about the 2017 revocation of the 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter and the proposed changes from the Biden Administration that would revise the live hearing and cross-examination requirements and procedures. See Tim Burke, Biden Administration Issues Q and A and Responds to Court Decision of Title IX Regulations That May Predict New Regulations, 171 Fraternal L. 8 (Sept. 2021).
 Complaint at ¶¶ 18, 21.