Yale Daily News

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.

Asha Prihar | asha.prihar@yale.edu

Serena Cho | serena.cho@yale.edu

  • Vincent Morrone

    Interesting how the article doesn’t mention
    the court ruling denying Yale’s motion for summary judgment on basic
    fairness, not applying preponderance, and breach of contract because the school
    manipulated the process against Montague. Yale broke their own rules, convinced a girl she was assaulted when she didn’t think so originally on her own, they filed the complaint for her so she didn’t have to testify, and acknowledging she returned to his room and bed of her own volition on the night of the assault after it happened. Details matter.

  • Kenneth A. Margolis

    This article misleadingly suggests that the only terms of settlement were withdrawal of the lawsuit with each party bearing its own expenses. That implication is surely incorrect – there must be a separate settlement agreement under which Montague received money. It remains to be seen if Yale will disclose those terms.

  • Bobby Obvious

    The authors appear not to understand why settlements occur between powerful organizations and individuals. They’re usually done when the powerful organization being sued (Yale) is denied summary judgment or case dismissal, thus expecting an ugly loss. They settle to avoid the embarrassment and lessen the cost; agreeing to a subset of the plaintiff’s demands quietly, simply and quickly.

    So the key question here is whether the authors were poor journalists or good journalists feigning ignorance. For those interested, there is a more interesting history to this case as evidenced by Judge Covello’s ruling. To quote KC Johnson (a Professor who followed the case deeply): Judge Covello’s “spring ruling denied Yale’s motion for summary judgment on basic fairness, not applying preponderance, and breach of contract w/effect of manipulating the process against Montague.” If you read the spring ruling, the decision by the university to settle makes a lot more sense. So, again, either the authors poorly researched this article or withheld the important bits to present a biased, sexist view. Either way, the authors ascribe no value to Montague’s reputation and life probably because he’s a man. Anybody who followed the case knows that it was completely mishandled and an innocent person’s life was destroyed weeks from graduation.

  • yal2490

    This article is a pathetic excuse for journalism. It conflates Montague’s lawsuit with other failed sexual misconduct lawsuits even though this one was very different. It also lacks substance from the actual lawsuit.

    In the most recent ruling (which ultimately gave rise to settlement discussions), Judge Covello denied Yale’s motion for summary judgment on multiple grounds including breach of contract, fairness, and possible manipulation of procedures. The ruling allowed for seven counts (five counts of breach of contract, one count of duty of fairness, and one count of tortious interference) to move forward to trial. Yet the YDN only references that the court “conclud[ed] that Yale did not discriminate against [Montague] on the basis of gender”, which is true but drastically understates the judge’s views on Yale’s actions. That the YDN did not once allude to these seven counts tells you about their impartiality.

    Sure, the trial could have gone either way, but this ruling, which was
    filed 3/29/19, produced a great deal of momentum in Montague’s favor. It will undoubtedly be cited in future college sexual misconduct lawsuits in favor of those students stripped of due process.

  • APD

    I wonder whether the terrible reporting at YDN is the result of student reporter ignorance and being terrible at their jobs, or just plain old bias. Pray tell, what are “most of these cases” that were “quietly dropped after several months”?

    Khan dropped his after a few weeks because the issue in question became moot. He sought an emergency injunction over a temporary suspension, but he was subsequently expelled. Court documents indicate Yale has settled every other lawsuit–4– by male students. One is still ongoing.

    Get your facts straight.

  • Bobby Obvious

    The authors appear not to understand why settlements occur between powerful organizations and individuals. They’re usually done when the powerful organization being sued (Yale) is denied summary judgment or case dismissal, thus expecting an ugly loss. They settle to avoid the embarrassment and lessen the cost; agreeing to a subset of the plaintiff’s demands quietly, simply and quickly.

    So the key question here is whether the authors were poor journalists or good journalists feigning ignorance. For those interested, there is a more interesting history to this case as evidenced by Judge Covello’s ruling. To quote KC Johnson (a Professor who followed the case deeply): Judge Covello’s “spring ruling denied Yale’s motion for summary judgment on basic fairness, not applying preponderance, and breach of contract w/effect of manipulating the process against Montague.” If you read the spring ruling, the decision by the university to settle makes a lot more sense. So, again, either the authors poorly researched this article or withheld the important bits to present a biased, sexist view. Either way, the authors ascribe no value to Montague’s reputation and life probably because he’s a man. Anybody who followed the case knows that it was completely mishandled and an innocent person’s life was destroyed weeks from graduation.

  • matt10023

    Confidential settlement. Why the lack of transparency Yale?

  • Bigcheese
  • Dittersdorf451

    Yale University has been among the leaders in indefensible treatment of accused students (Patrick Witt, Saifullah Khan, and Jack Montague being the most prominent). Nothing could be better for Yale’s students (and ultimately for Yale itself) for there to be many successful lawsuits.

  • Sam

    For a more thorough and honest discussion of what really caused Yale to capitulate, read KC Johnson in Minding The Campus. One hopes that the settlement cost Yale substantially enough to deter future Title IX kangaroo courts, but the reality is that runaway academic administrators – be it in Yale or in Oberlin or elsewhere – are never held accountable for their misdeeds no matter how much they cost their institutions financially and in reputation. It is a shame that the settlement didn’t also include a public apology to Mr. Montague for the Kafkaesque nightmare that he was put through. To the staff writers involved in this story, your willful obfuscation of the federal judge’s full ruling in the denial of summary judgement not only is a tremendous disservice to the student body, it also speaks poorly of the journalistic and ethical training afforded at Yale.

  • Dittersdorf451

    “This trend [of settling lawsuits] will continue to occur until colleges gain solid confidence in their disciplinary procedures for sexual misconduct, she [Professor Baker] added.” According to an article earlier this year at campus safety magazine, “Since the ‘Dear Colleague’ letter, there have been 319 federal cases where some type of action took place. Universities have lost 137 decisions, most of which were to dismiss the lawsuit. Universities have won 119 times and the cases have ended with confidential settlements 63 times.” Colleges and universities have had quite a bit of time to “gain solid confidence” in how they adjudicate allegations of sexual misconduct; they just don’t want to read the writing on the wall.

  • ShadrachSmith

    I warned in 2015 that Yale granting its imprimatur to the feminist star chamber would result in contingent liabilities for violating student’s constitutional rights. That time is here, the legal liabilities increase daily, the payouts will only increase: and the star chamber remains in place.

    You guys are supposed to be smart?

  • ShadrachSmith

    Speaking of Sports

    Connecticut girls are suing the state High School association for a violation of Title IX for allowing transgender competition in the women’s events.

    Pick a side.