Doe v. Trustees of Boston College
Doe v. Trustees of Boston College (U.S. Court of Appeals – First Circuit, Nov. 20, 2019): The First Circuit reversed a district court’s preliminary injunction prohibiting Boston College from imposing a one year suspension of a student responsible for sexual assault. The student claimed the investigation process in the college’s policies (the Contract) violated state and federal law. Boston College adhered to the Contract’s investigation and adjudication procedures. The student argued, however, some form of cross-examination was required. The district court found the student was likely to succeed on his claim that he was deprived of basic fairness under state contract law because the process lacked “quasi-cross-examination in real time.” The First Circuit reversed. A private institution is not required to comply with federal due process standards to meet the “basic fairness” requirement in campus adjudications; nor did state contract law require such cross-examinations. The district court unduly interfered with the right of academic institutions to make disciplinary decisions. The court spoke of the need for judicial modesty in defining the law, as a federal court “must take state law as it finds it” and not import federal due process standards to reshape state contract law. Such decisions amounted to “policy choices for the Supreme Judicial Court and/or state legislature to make.” Read the decision here.
View all cases in the Judicial Trends in Public Health – February 18, 2020.