Following an almost three-year-long court battle, former basketball captain Jack Montague — whose expulsion from Yale for sexual misconduct made national headlines — settled his case with the University this week, according to a court filing.
On Monday, Montague’s case was voluntarily dismissed in court, with both the plaintiffs and the defendants agreeing to “bear” their own respective “costs and fees.” The settlement comes two months after a federal judge ruled in April that Montague’s case warranted a trial by jury, despite concluding that Yale did not discriminate against him on the basis of gender.
According to court documents, Yale and Montague held a private settlement conference on May 7. When asked last month about the terms of settlement that Montague’s legal team was pursuing, Montague’s spokesperson Karen Schwartzman declined to comment.
Montague’s lawyer Max Stern did not respond to request for comment on Wednesday. University spokesman Tom Conroy said “Yale does not have a comment on the matter.”
Montague filed the original lawsuit in June 2016, three months after he was expelled for “penetration without consent.” In the lawsuit, he alleged breach of contract and violation of his Title IX rights, arguing that Yale sought to make an example of his case for the sake of “restoring [the University’s] tarnished image.” Through the lawsuit, Montague sought to undo his expulsion and complete his final term at Yale.
Following the April court ruling, Stern told the News that Montague “look[ed] forward to presenting his case to the jury.” This comment, in addition to the statements previously made by both Yale and Montague’s lawyers, seemed to indicate that a settlement between the two parties was unlikely.
While several other male students sued Yale after the University-wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct disciplined them for sexual misconduct, most of those cases resulted in the plaintiff quietly dropping the lawsuit after several months. Although Montague’s lawsuit is similar to these students’ in arguing that Yale’s disciplinary ruling was a result of an unfair process, the case received an unprecedented amount of public scrutiny that sparked multiple protests and thrust every court ruling related to the lawsuit into the national spotlight.
Katharine Baker, an expert on campus sexual misconduct based at Chicago-Kent College of Law, explained that it is difficult to determine why the parties chose to settle and what the broader implications of this case may be without knowing the settlement’s terms, which were determined privately.
Baker added that the settlement poses a “risk for Yale” because it could send the message that it may be worth it for other students who have been disciplined for sexual misconduct to file similar suits against the University. On the other hand, settlement may have been Yale’s best course of action given the cost of litigation and the invasive, “messy” nature of a potential trial, she said.
In January 2018, Yale settled a similar lawsuit by a former student — called John Doe in court documents — who claimed that he was unfairly expelled over a false sexual misconduct allegation in 2012.
“It would be wrong to interpret this as Yale admitting that what [Montague] said was true,” Baker said. “It could very well be that Yale said the process of proving that [they’re] right is going to be more expensive than settling, and not worth it given everything else that’s going to come out.”
Due to the litigation costs, Baker also said that she believes it will likely become “relatively common” for higher education institutions to settle when students who are disciplined for sexual misconduct violations sue their universities. This trend will continue to occur until colleges gain solid confidence in their disciplinary procedures for sexual misconduct, she added.
Yale received a record number of sexual misconduct complaints in fall 2018.
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