News & Politics

MSU Student Accused of Assault Hopes His Lawsuit Will Be Given Class-Action Status

MSU Student Accused of Assault Hopes His Lawsuit Will Be Given Class-Action Status
Participants march against sexual assault and harassment at the #MeToo March in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles on Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

A Michigan State University student who found his life devastatingly upended after he was accused of assault, sued MSU in December 2018 for failing to give him due process. Detroit Free Press is now reporting that the student is seeking to turn his original lawsuit into a class-action lawsuit. As DFP reports, if he is successful he “could overturn dozens of findings against students accused of sexual assault.”

This particular case took place in February 2018 after the student had what he believed was consensual relations with a female friend. At some point during the encounter, the unnamed student says that he asked the woman if she was okay because she “appeared uncomfortable and was shivering.” The two stopped and she left his room. According to the DFP, “Later that night, [the student] got a text from a friend, who said the woman told her he forced himself onto her. The woman filed an assault report with the Office of Institutional Equity four days later.”

MSU suspended the student for two years, but did so without “offer[ing] him true due process — a chance for a live hearing where he could question his accuser directly.”

With important and possibly far-reaching ramifications, this is the first case of its kind to seek class-action status. The student’s lawyer, Andrew Miltenberg spoke with the DFP and explained, “For a long time, people would ask why there wasn’t a class action. There wasn’t a law on the books we could hold a class action on. Now there is.”

That law referenced by Miltenberg, according to the story published by the DFP, came from:

The federal 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers Michigan and nearby states, ruled in 2018 that the University of Michigan erred in a sexual assault investigation when it did not offer a live hearing with direct questioning when cases involved he said/she said questions of credibility.

According to David French, who tweeted about the story as it broke, this is an “Important development. Given that due process violations on campus have been longstanding and systematic it was only a matter of time before a class action was filed.”

From its inception, backlash against the #MeToo movement was inevitable. The overcompensation inherent in the movement was manifest in a trashing of the Constitution, namely in the form of ignoring the vital importance of due process for the health of our society. According to feminist activists, since assaults against women go underreported and are under-prosecuted, every single accusation must be taken as 100 percent true, even if it’s not. That, of course, opens the door for extreme miscarriages of justice. Hopefully, if this lawsuit is granted class-action status, it will help swing the pendulum of justice on college campuses back in line with the Constitution.