Alleged 2001 rape victims to move forward with case against university
The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver ruled Thursday to allow two alleged rape victims to continue with a Title IX sexual harassment lawsuit against the University of Colorado at Boulder.
In 2002, Lisa Simpson and another woman filed the lawsuit against the university after CU football recruits allegedly sexually assaulted the two women at a December 2001 recruitment party.
Click here to view the full timeline of the CU sexual assault scandals
In the suit against the university, the two women said at the time of the alleged rape, CU held certain responsibilities at the 2001 recruiting party by fostering an environment that supported such behavior. The case was dismissed in March 2005 when district court
Judge Robert Blackburn determined they failed to meet two key standards of a Title IX suit.
“During the initial trial, a question arose regarding under what circumstances the law could be interpreted, especially if students are harassing other students,” said Marcia Greenberger, co-president of the NWLC and co-council for the appellants.
The two women, with the aid of the National Women’s Law Center appealed the case to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.
“The district trial judge got it wrong,” Greenberge said. “The ruling today from the Court of Appeals asserted that the recruitment program knew about and fostered sexual assault among student athletes.”
Greenberger said that the trial judge held himself to too stringent of a standard when interpreting Title IX.
Title IX prohibits sexual discrimination in education and all schools receiving federal money must abide by this law, Greenberger said.
See the official appellate court ruling here.
Tenth Circuit Court Judges concluded that, “We REVERSE the grant of summary judgment to CU and REMAND for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.”
Larry Pozner, legal council hired by CU, released the position of the university.
“In this ruling, the court is required to accept as truth everything the plaintiffs say. The court pointed this out at the very beginning and again at the end of its decision. And so, that’s an extremely narrow standard.”
Pozner also said the University has never promoted policies that harm the sexual well-being of its female students.
“If every single thing you say is true, you might have a case. But, regardless of that, the University of Colorado does not have a policy that would place any of its female students at risk of assault. In fact, the university has stringent policies that prohibit sexual harassment and sexual assault.”
According to Pozner, the results of this case will have consequences not just for CU, but for all universities.
“Over the last several years, the university has become a leader in such policies and practices. They are better designed to prevent sexual assault and harassment. This ruling moves all universities in the nation into uncharted legal waters that will require universities to monitor student activities to a degree far beyond anything that has ever happened before.”
Pozner said CU is prepared for the next steps in the trial.
“We go back to court,” Pozner said. “We’ll try the case and a jury will tell us what they think when they here all the facts, remember, a jury isn’t told, ‘you have to accept everything the plaintiff say is true.'”
Simpson’s local legal council Baine Kerr said he expected the ruling.
“It’s not a surprise that we have the case reinstated that is what we had expected,” Kerr said. “It is the breadth of the opinion and the legal principles that it is based on that I could not have begun to predict. It is very gratifying; it’s very strong opinion.”
Kerr said Simpson is “elated” and is looking forward to her day in court.
“We’re going to put Gary Barnett on the witness stand, and put Dick Tharp on the witness stand, and put Betsy Hoffman on the witness stand, and put all of the many women who were sexually harassed and sexually assaulted on the witness stand and send the case to a jury,” Kerr said.
Former CU football coach Gary Barnett did not return calls from The Campus Press seeking comment.