Inside the courtroom: John Doe’s hearing v. Cornell University
The prosecution makes headway in the gender discrimination case
Today was the day. November 30, Judge Eugene Faughnan heard from both John Doe’s attorney, Alan Sash, and Cornell University’s attorney regarding the gender discrimination claim against the Cornell Title IX Investigator.
When I walked into the courtroom to observe the hearing, John Doe’s father and his attorney sat at the righthand table chatting with the judge about his son’s sports team. Cornell’s attorney sat looking over her notes. Right off the bat, Doe’s dad and attorney seemed much more at ease than the defense.
The day’s main focus was on Cornell’s Policy 6.4, which reads:
“The purpose of the investigation is to gather evidence relating to the alleged discrimination, harassment, sexual assault/violence, or retaliation to determine whether the accused engaged in conduct constituting discrimination, harassment, or retaliation by a preponderance of the evidence (i.e., it is more likely than not that prohibited discrimination or protected-status (including sexual) harassment or retaliation has occurred.) The investigator conducts these formal investigations, which must be completed within 60 days, subject to extension by the investigator as may be necessary or for good cause.”
Doe’s attorney, Alan Sash, argued that Cornell neglected to adhere to their own policy. He claimed that in waiting to pursue the discrimination charges until after the decision to exonerate John Doe was essentially analogous to an individual on trial getting their right to a jury, only after the verdict.
Each side had an opportunity to address this claim in front of the judge today. The Cornell attorney took up the argument that there was no harm if John Doe were to be exonerated and questioned what would stop him from circumventing the policy in place and tie up the case in court.
Frequently in her presentation, the judge interrupted her with the common theme in his question of, if there’s nothing to hide, and there is no discrimination why not prove him wrong and/or why not change the policy?
Each time, the defense attorney seemed caught off-guard and flustered by the reaction. When it switched over to the prosecution, and the judge asked about the legitimacy of the practical argument about circumventing the policy, Sash argued harm is harm and asked if practically speaking, why would Cornell not want to know if their investigator was discriminatory?
On our way out of the courtroom, Sash was kind enough to share some thoughts on the proceedings.
“The argument went well today,” he told us. “The judge was fully familiar with both side’s arguments and the relevant law.”
As for the university’s motion to dismiss the suit, he said: “Cornell’s move to have the case dismissed was shameful. Cornell should address student grievances on the merits and not try to dodge them.”
He added: “As for next steps, we await a ruling from the court and, if all goes well, Cornell will be ordered to investigate its Title IX investigator for gender discrimination.”
Now, after today, Judge Faughnan will deliberate and get back to the attorneys with his decision.
The case continues.