Education

Judge blocks UK’s bid to dismiss lawsuit over student’s ‘bungled’ rape case

The University of Kentucky campus.
The University of Kentucky campus. File photo.

A federal judge has denied the University of Kentucky’s request to dismiss a civil rights lawsuit over what he described as a “bungled” disciplinary process stemming from a student’s alleged rape.

On Aug. 31, U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Hood denied UK’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by “Jane Doe,” who said UK violated her Title IX rights following her alleged October, 2014 rape on campus by “Student B.” The Herald-Leader does not typically identify victims of alleged sexual assault.

According to Jane Doe’s attorney, Elizabeth Howell of Louisville, Student B is Lloyd Tubman, a former UK football player, who now plays for Austin Peay State University. Tubman was arrested and UK football officials suspended him from the team. A grand jury later declined to indict him on charges of first-degree rape, but three UK panels found him responsible for sexual misconduct and expelled him from campus, according to the lawsuit.

Tubman, a freshman in 2014, appealed after each ruling and was granted a fourth hearing, which was never scheduled.

The lawsuit alleged Jane Doe was re-victimized each time UK allowed Tubman to appeal the decisions against him. Jane Doe dropped out of UK during the appeals process.

Hood’s order notes that UK responded immediately to Doe’s allegation by suspending Tubman and issuing a no-contact order.

But, Hood wrote, “it is undisputed that the university bungled the disciplinary hearings so badly, so inexcusably, that it necessitated three appeals and reversals in an attempt to remedy the due-process deficiencies.”

“The disciplinary hearings were plagued with clear errors, such as conducting a hearing without Student B’s presence, and refusing to allow Student B to whisper to an advisor during the proceeding (as only two examples of several obvious errors), that resulted in multiple appeals spanning months, profoundly affected Plaintiff’s ability to obtain an education at the University of Kentucky (the Court suspects this lengthy process profoundly affected Student B as well),” Hood wrote.

UK spokesman Jay Blanton said the university intends to hold the fourth hearing as soon as possible.

“In Title IX cases, the university is required to do three critically important things: stop the harassment, remedy the effects on the victim survivor and prevent the harassment from recurring,” Blanton said. “To that end, we have taken concrete steps to reform and improve our system for deciding sexual misconduct cases. We believe our system works well.”

The university’s hearing process changed under new rules of Title IX — the federal guarantee of equal access to education regardless of gender — that went into effect in 2015.

The Title IX hearings, which must take place within 60 days of a complaint, are decided based on a preponderance of evidence, which means a violation was more likely to have been committed than not. Grand juries issue indictments based on probable cause, which means there is enough evidence to continue legal proceedings. At trial, a jury must decide whether a person is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Linda Blackford: 859-231-1359, @lbblackford

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