SJS lawsuit likely to be settled out-of-court

A legal battle between the University and a student convicted for sexual assault might be settled through an out-of-court resolution, according to court documents.

A freshman, under the pseudonym “John Doe” in the documents, filed the lawsuit against GW April 8, alleging that Student Judicial Service’s flawed disciplinary process wrongfully deemed him guilty of sexual assault. After over two months of legal exchanges in federal court, the parties filed a joint report to request more time to negotiate.

“The parties report that they have made progress toward a possible resolution of this matter, but have not concluded their discussions. Therefore, they request until June 17, 2011, to do so,” according to the documents.

The student – who was issued a one-year suspension by SJS for sexually assaulting a female student – is suing GW for a total of $6 million in damages. He filed an injunction to halt the suspension for the duration of court proceedings and was allowed to stay on campus for the remainder of the semester.

GW rebuffed all allegations that SJS conducts faulty hearings and does not comply with its own Code of Student Conduct in a response to the student’s charges. The University also said the meritless case would collapse in court proceedings.

An out-of-court resolution would allow the University and the suspended student to work out a deal behind closed doors and without court intervention.

University spokesperson Jill Sankey declined to comment on the possible settlement details, saying GW does not comment on pending litigation.

The plaintiff’s lawyer, Matt Kaiser, also declined to comment on the negotiations.

Michael Green, a professor and expert in civil procedure at the William & Mary School of Law, said private settlements outside of courtrooms are commonly kept confidential or at least have limitations attached as to which parts of the agreement can be disclosed to the public.

“Usually when people settle, it is in the interest of at least one of the parties to make it private,” Green said. “It’d be very likely that there would be confidentiality.”

Green added that settlements also have a positive effect of limiting the amount of expensive litigation both parties endure through court disputes.

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