23 law professors filed a motion to submit an amici curiae brief.

Cameron Pollack / Sun Senior Photographer

23 law professors filed a motion to submit an amici curiae brief.

April 8, 2018

23 Law Professors Express Support For Student Suing the University Over Title IX Investigation

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Twenty-three Cornell Law School professors filed a motion to submit an amici curiae brief in the appeals case of John Doe v. Cornell University on March 25.

In the motion, the professors said the University failed to guarantee the accused student his right to have his questions asked to his accuser and expressed their concern about the way Cornell carried out its procedural protections under Title IX policies.

In 2016, a student, referred to in court documents as Sally Roe, filed a sexual assault complaint against another student, referred to as John Doe. In May 2017, Doe was found responsible by the University and was suspended for two years, The Sun previously reported. Doe subsequently filed an appeal to the Third Department of the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court.

According to the brief, one of the main issues under appeal is the ability of an accused student to have his questions asked to his accuser by a disciplinary hearing panel.

Cornell’s Title IX procedures, as written on its website, state that the accused individual and the accuser “will participate remotely, except when they testify,” and that, “throughout the hearing, the parties with their advisor(s) and support person, if applicable, will be in separate rooms.”

The policies also state that accused students can submit their questions for their accusers to a hearing panel, who will then determine which of these questions will be asked depending on whether the questions are “relevant” and “not prohibited.”

According to the brief, the hearing panel did not ask Roe any of Doe’s questions when she testified in April 2017, saying that it “revised the form of argumentative questions” and “combined cumulative questions.”

In response to this action, the motion declared that “no process can be reliable or fair if a person accused of wrongdoing is unable to effectively challenge the accusations against him by testing his accuser’s credibility.”

The counsel for the professors, Prof. Sheri Lynn Johnson, law, declined to comment on the brief, but said in an email that the brief “speaks for itself.”

The document also noted that this amicus brief does not represent the perspective of the Cornell Law School or the University.

John Carberry, senior director of media relations for the University, said in an email to The Sun that “Cornell trusts that the appellate court will carefully read the Procedures … and determine whether the amici brief is of any assistance.”

“The trial court reviewed those Procedures and concluded that ‘the right of confrontation or cross-examination is not directed or guaranteed under the Procedures,’ and recognized the discretion of the Hearing Chair and Hearing Panel to determine what questions will be asked of witnesses from the subject matter suggested by the parties,” Carberry went on to write.

An amicus brief refers to the briefs submitted to the court by an individual or group of individuals who is not a party of the legal action, but has “strong interest in the matter,” according to Wex, Cornell Law School’s legal dictionary. These briefs — with the intent to influence the court’s decision — are often cited by the majority or concurring opinions of the court.

The case will be heard on April 23 in Albany, New York.