Years after former basketball captain Jack Montague sued the University for expelling him in 2016 for “penetration without consent,” his federal lawsuit will go to trial, despite a federal ruling that Yale did not discriminate on the basis of gender.
After an almost two-year battle in court, Yale filed a motion in May 2018 for summary judgement, which claimed that Montague lacked evidence to prove his case and requested to throw out many of Montague’s claims. While the judge determined that several of Montague’s arguments lacked evidence — including that his expulsion was the result of gender bias — the court concluded that the case still warrants a trial by jury on several other claims alleging that Yale did not abide by its procedures for adjudicating sexual misconduct.
“Yale is pleased that the court ruled that Yale did not discriminate against Jack Montague and that he cannot pursue several other claims from his lawsuit,” University Spokesman Tom Conroy said in a statement to the News.
Montague’s trial comes as dozens of male students across the country sue their universities alleging they were disciplined for sexual misconduct on the basis of unfair procedures. The Department of Education has recently rescinded Obama-era guidelines for sexual misconduct adjudication — including the relatively low “preponderance of the evidence” standard that Yale uses — and issued new rules to protect the accused.
According to Montague’s lawyer Max Stern, Montague’s complaint alleges that Montague’s expulsion was “the result of an unfair and biased disciplinary process which had been programed from the start to result in his dismissal.”
Per the court documents, Montague argued that the University used misleading confidential information to manipulate his sexual partner into submitting a formal complaint against him and appointed an individual who had participated in the aforementioned manipulation as the chair of the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct hearing panel. It also alleged that the fact-finding process and hearing were biased and suppressed information that would have supported his innocence, and denied him the “fair, thorough and impartial” process that it says he should have been given under both the law and Yale’s policies. The judge ruled that Montague produced enough evidence on these claims to warrant a trial for the case.
“Montague looks forward to presenting his case to a jury,” Stern said.
According to Chicago-Kent College of Law professor Katharine Baker, the crux of Montague’s claim asserts that Yale did not follow its own procedures.
“It’s a pain in the neck for Yale,” Baker said. “It’s always a pain in the neck for defendants when they lose summary judgement. Now they have to proceed to trial on all these issues that could just be kind of ugly.”
Baker said that Montague could win the suit, but it is unlikely to have broader implications for the University’s procedures.
According to Andrew T. Miltenberg — a New York-based lawyer who represents men accused of sexual misconduct — Montague’s lawsuit highlights the unfairness and manipulation of Yale’s Title IX process. The University filed the victim’s complaint for her and gave her the right to serve as the complainant, Miltenberg said.
“That’s unusual, and something that I think Yale should be concerned about,” Miltenberg said. “He certainly raises the inequity of the process and the fact that Yale manipulated it at a number of junctures … had it been clearer that the manipulation was on the basis of his gender, [gender discrimination claims] would have stayed in.”
Stanford law professor and Title IX expert Michele Dauber told the News that Montague’s case is going to trial amidst a recent trend — courts’ inclination to not respect universities’ internal sexual misconduct adjudication procedures, which she called an “unfortunate development.”
Dauber explained that historically, courts have given universities a high level of deference when it comes to issues of community standards and expulsion. But as issues of sexual misconduct have gained more visibility in the #MeToo era, Dauber said that “backlash against that has played out in courts,” which have been more willing to interfere in cases of sexual misconduct.
“The turn that courts are taking on this is bad for women, bad for campus safety and ultimately probably bad for courts too,” Dauber said. “It’s opening the floodgates to second-guessing institutional decisions.”
Yale’s Title IX Office received 162 student complaints between July 1 and Dec. 31 last year.
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