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Doe v. University of Chicago

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

September 22, 2016

JOHN DOE, Plaintiff,
THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO, et al., Defendants.


          Honorable Edmond E. Chang United States District Judge

         Plaintiff John Doe[1] and defendant Jane Doe are students at the University of Chicago. R. 1, Compl. ¶¶ 12, 14.[2] John Doe filed this suit against the University of Chicago and Jane Doe, asserting numerous Title IX violations, 20 U.S.C. §§ 1681 et seq., as well as state-law claims.[3] See Id. ¶¶ 119-205. At the time of filing, John Doe also moved for a temporary restraining order (TRO). R. 4, Pl.'s Br. After a hearing on the motion, the Court denied John Doe's request for a TRO and deemed it converted into a motion for a preliminary injunction. See R. 11, 8/24/2016 Minute Entry. For the reasons stated below, John Doe's converted motion for a preliminary injunction is also denied.

         I. Background

         This case arises out of Jane Doe's assertion-made, initially, via a variety of social-media outlets-that she had been sexually assaulted by John Doe, and the University's subsequent handling of three related disciplinary complaints: two lodged by John Doe against Jane Doe and one lodged by Jane Doe against John Doe. To understand the factual setting, the Court will set forth facts drawn from the Complaint, and assume them to be true (because that assumption does not impact the decision on the preliminary injunction).

         For purposes of the pending motion, the lead-up to the lawsuit begins in November 2014, when Jane Doe began to claim on her personal blog that she had been sexually assaulted. Compl. ¶ 75. By December 2014, Jane had “definitively identified John Doe as the person who had allegedly assaulted her.” Id. When she found out in the spring of 2016 that John was directing a theater program, she posted a series of tweets on Twitter about the program, “stating John Doe assaulted [her] and many others.” Id. ¶¶ 77-81.

         Upon learning of Jane Doe's tweets, John sent the University an email to complain against Jane for “online sexual harassment.” Compl. ¶ 88; R. 1-12, May 2016 Compl. In late May, Associate Dean Jeremy Inabinet informed John that he had reviewed the information that John had provided and had determined that there was “no evident violation of the University Policy on Harassment, Discrimination, and Sexual Misconduct.” Compl. ¶ 89; R. 1-13, 5/25/2016 Inabinet Email. Following Inabinet's determination, John's counsel sent Jane a cease-and- desist letter “demanding Jane Doe remove the offending Tweets and issue a public apology to John Doe for the defamatory statements made repeatedly by Jane Doe.” Compl. ¶ 92; R. 1-16, Cease & Desist Letter. Jane did not delete her tweets. Compl. ¶ 93.

         In June 2016, Jane Doe made her own complaint to the University; she claimed that John had sexually assaulted her on September 23, 2013. See Compl. ¶ 111. In response, the University launched its disciplinary process. See Id. ¶ 11; Pl.'s Br. at 6. John then lodged a second complaint with the University, this time alleging that Jane's June 2016 complaint is “false, in bad faith[, ] and retaliatory.” 8/24/2016 Tr. at 10.

         Upon being told by the University that it was investigating Jane Doe's June 2016 complaint, John expressed concerns to Inabinet about the University's investigatory and adjudicatory procedures. See Compl. ¶¶ 100, 102; R. 1-20, 8/7/2016 Email. In an August 7, 2016 email, John articulated disagreement with Inabinet's “stated intention” to adjudicate John's alleged 2013 conduct according to the University's 2015 student manual. Compl. ¶ 100; 8/7/2016 Email at 3-6. He also objected to the possibility that the University would adjudicate Jane's June 2016 complaint before investigating and deciding his May and June 2016 complaints. Compl. ¶ 102; 8/7/2016 Email at 1-2. Hearing nothing in response to these concerns, see Compl. ¶ 103, John Doe filed this suit against Jane Doe and the University of Chicago, asserting several Title IX violations and making numerous state-law claims, see Id. ¶¶ 119-205.

         At the time of the lawsuit's filing, John moved for a temporary restraining order to restrain the University from subjecting him to its disciplinary process. See Pl.'s Br. at 3. The Court held a hearing on the motion on the day that it was filed. See 8/24/2016 Minute Entry. At that hearing, the University agreed to use the 2013 student manual's definition of consent, give John an extension of time to respond to Jane's June 2016 complaint, and consider all three[4] disciplinary complaints in one proceeding. See Id. The Court ultimately denied John's request for a TRO, because there was no irreparable harm that justified even a temporary injunction without notice to the University and an opportunity for the University to be heard. But the Court did convert the TRO motion into a motion for preliminary injunction and requested further briefing on the issue of irreparable harm. Id.

         II. Legal Standards

         A preliminary injunction is “an extraordinary remedy that may only be awarded upon a clear showing that the plaintiff is entitled to such relief.” Winter v. Natural Res. Def. Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 22 (2008). To prevail on a motion for a preliminary injunction, a moving party must show that its case has some likelihood of success on the merits and that it has no adequate remedy at law and will suffer irreparable harm if a preliminary injunction is denied. Stuller, Inc. v. Steak N Shake Enters., Inc., 695 F.3d 676, 678 (7th Cir. 2012). If the moving party meets these threshold requirements, then the court balances the nature and degree of the potential harm to each party and the public interest. Girl Scouts of Manitou Council, Inc. v. Girl Scouts, Inc., 549 F.3d 1079, 1086 (7th Cir. 2008).

         III. Analysis

         John Doe contends that the University is subjecting him to a “fundamentally unfair, arbitrary, and capricious disciplinary procedure that violates both Title IX and [the University's] Policies.” Pl.'s Br. at 2. He has asked for an injunction- relying specifically on the basis of his negligence, promissory estoppel, and Title IX retaliation claims, see Id. at 3-to (a) prevent the University from using the 2015 student manual to evaluate the 2013 sexual encounter and to (b) halt the University's disciplinary process until it remedies the alleged Title IX violations and fully adjudicates his May 2016 Complaint, id.[5] John initially claimed that an injunction was necessary because money damages could not adequately compensate him for any lost educational opportunities and any damage to his reputation that might result from the University's disciplinary process. Id. at 30. He now claims that an injunction is necessary because the way in which the University is conducting its disciplinary proceeding is causing him psychological harm, which has recently resulted in episodes of self-harm. See R. 23, Pl.'s Reply Br.

         A. ...

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