Horvitz & Levy successfully petitioned the California Supreme Court to reverse the Court of Appeal and disapprove a series of recent opinions that required live cross-examination and imposed a demanding due process standard on private universities’ sexual assault and intimate partner violence proceedings.
After a drunken late night party, USC student Matthew Boermeester went to his ex-girlfriend’s house, grabbed her hard by the throat, and pushed her head hard against a concrete wall in the alley behind her apartment. Multiple witnesses observed the incident, which was also caught on a security camera. His girlfriend (Roe) described the assault to a university Title IX investigator, who then initiated an investigation. Roe later recanted her accusations, but the investigation continued based on the witness testimony and security footage. At the investigation’s conclusion, Boermeester was expelled. Boermeester sued in superior court, claiming USC’s proceedings violated his common law right to fair procedure because, among other things, he was denied the ability to attend a live hearing at which he or his attorney could directly question and cross-examine Roe in real time. In a divided opinion, the Court of Appeal agreed with Boermeester. USC then retained Horvitz & Levy to challenge the Court of Appeal’s ruling.
Horvitz & Levy successfully obtained review from the California Supreme Court and represented USC on the merits. We argued that private universities’ disciplinary proceedings are governed by California’s common law fair procedure doctrine, a flexible doctrine that requires the university to provide only notice of the charges and a meaningful opportunity to be heard. The Supreme Court agreed and, reversing the Court of Appeal, held that fair procedure does not require providing a live hearing with cross-examination.