Skip to Content
Offices in Cleveland & Columbus, Ohio 888-694-4645
Top

Connecticut Supreme Court Re-Affirms Importance of Cross-Examination in Title IX Proceedings; Allows Plaintiff to Pursue Defamat

Connecticut Supreme Court Re-Affirms Importance of Cross-Examination in Title IX Proceedings; Allows Plaintiff to Pursue Defamation Lawsuit

On June 23, 2023, the Connecticut Supreme Court issued a critical ruling, which simultaneously affirmed the importance of cross-examination in Title IX proceedings, while holding that an accuser’s alleged false statements in a Title IX proceeding are not entitled to absolute quasi-judicial immunity. This holding allows Khan, a former Yale Student, to move forward with his defamation lawsuit against his accuser for the alleged false allegations she made.

A summary of the facts can be seen at our previous blog here. (https://www.iannfriedman.com/blog/2022/march/do-witnesses-in-private-universities-title-ix-pr/) In short, Khan was accused of sexually assaulting Jane Doe in October of 2015. Doe filed a formal complaint with both the University as well as law enforcement. After a criminal trial, Khan was fully acquitted. Despite his acquittal, the University held a hearing, which did not allow for cross-examination. At the conclusion of the hearing, Yale determined that Khan violated its Sexual Misconduct Policy and he was expelled. He then filed a lawsuit against Doe for defamation, where she argued that her statements made in the furtherance of the University’s disciplinary process were protected by absolute quasi-judicial immunity.

In its ruling, the Court was highly critical of Yale’s disciplinary process, unanimously holding that because Khan had fewer rights to defend himself in Yale’s proceedings, compared to a criminal proceeding, the sexual assault accuser cannot benefit fully from immunity granted to witnesses in criminal proceedings. Specifically, the Court took significant issue with the fact that Yale did not allow Khan to ask Doe questions via cross-examination. The Court reasoned that without ample opportunity to explore the truth of statements without cross examination, statements made in these proceedings carry too great a risk of unfair or unreliable outcomes, and as such, they should not be protected by absolute immunity.

In affirming the importance of cross-examination in Title IX proceedings, the Court provided several favorable comments to accused students, noting that they “often face life altering and stigmatizing consequences...we must acknowledge that the accused’s right to fundamental fairness is no less important than the right of the accuser or the larger community to achieve justice.” Additionally, the Court was direct in stating that Yale failing to place the accuser under oath or otherwise have her certify to the truth of her statements undermined her credibility. The Court also opined that, “The opportunity to meaningfully cross-examine adverse witnesses is vitally important to the truth-seeking function of any judicial or quasi-judicial proceeding," and recognized that cross-examination helps both the accused and the accuser.

It is anticipated that this ruling will have a significant impact on Title IX proceedings across the country. In 2020, the Department of Education issued new regulations on Title IX, which governed the way in which schools must investigate and adjudicate claims of sexual misconduct. As part of these regulations, post-secondary schools are required to allow cross-examination at a live hearing. However, it is anticipated that President Biden’s Department of Education will issue new proposals to these regulations in the coming months. He has already indicated that he plans to roll back many of the current protections for accused students, including the right of cross-examination. However, Khan’s case – and similar cases from jurisdictions across the country – may make such a rollback difficult, as legal challenges are expected.

At Friedman Nemecek & Long, L.L.C., our team of experienced Title IX and Student Disciplinary lawyers have represented students, faculty members, and coaches across the United States. Our lawyers stay current on the constant changes affecting Title IX proceedings and utilize our specialized knowledge, passion, and creative approaches to provide aggressive and robust representation in Title IX and Student Disciplinary matters. If you have questions regarding a student’s rights in Title IX or student conduct proceedings, or you have been subjected to, or accused of, sexual misconduct, sexual assault, dating violence, or sexual harassment on campus, please call Friedman Nemecek & Long, LLC, at 888-694-4645 for a free initial consultation.

The full opinion can be read here. (https://t.co/knEm4HxWJN)

Categories: