University Response to the Sacramento Bee’s “Jane Doe” Story
Today, the Sacramento Bee published a story about the litigation between Jane Doe and University of the Pacific. The story misrepresents important aspects of the court records, and appears to mischaracterize and second-guess a federal judge’s ruling that wholly and fully dismissed the lawsuit. Here are some clarifications:
Links between the two cases
The Stockton Police, aided by the University, immediately investigated the reported April 2008 sexual assault. The Stockton Police suspended their investigation because there were no suspects and no leads at the time, and the victim did not want to proceed with a criminal investigation. The Bee’s story focuses on a photo lineup that occurred three months later, in July 2010. Police determined that lineup was inconclusive. The April 2008 assault victim did not, in fact, identify either her assailants or the witnesses to her attack by name. She claimed to know one person who “was there,” but could not pick him out of the photo lineup. She picked three photos and said she was only 60-70% sure that they were there. She also said none of them was her assailant. The information was too inconclusive and came too late for Jane Doe’s hearings. The University could not reasonably re-open investigation of the students she had identified because there was no evidence, and too great a risk of mis-identification.
In his ruling dismissing the lawsuit, Judge Frank Damrell wrote:
“…the undisputed evidence demonstrates that the University acted reasonably in responding to Former Student’s report of an assault.” (p.27)
“Indeed, prior to plaintiff’s assault, the University and the Stockton police simply had no information tying Student 2 to the Former Student assault.” (p. 28)”
The University has not engaged in any victim-bashing, and neither the University nor its attorney has acknowledged any victim-bashing. The Bee quoted University attorney Janine Simerly appearing to do so, but it is clear from Court records that she was merely acknowledging that her argument was likely to be criticized. This is clear on pages 29-31 of the court transcript, which we’ve posted on our website.
Racial profiling is wrong and it is illegal. While it may be frustrating when the investigation and adjudication of University rules seems to run into a conflict with the protection of civil rights, the University is required to follow the law. Here, in his ruling the judge said:
“…Belcher reasonably concluded that any investigation of this African-American man smacked of unlawful, racial profiling.” (p. 28)
Through the entire, painful incident, the University has remained deeply committed to act with sensitivity and respect for the privacy of the victim. For that reason, the University, the plaintiff and the Court worked together to maximize student privacy by keeping most of the records related to the case sealed. Throughout the litigation, the University has honored the assault victim’s desire for privacy, adhered to its legal obligations under FERPA (the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act), and worked to protect the victim from further painful accounts of this incident in the media. The plaintiff reversed this stance in December 2010 after a series of Sacramento Bee stories, and since then, the University has complied fully with her desire to make the case public.
Read the U.S.District Court’s ruling (Sept. 17, 2010)
Read the court transcript (Sept. 10, 2010)
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