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UMMC Asks Federal Judge to Dismiss Racial and Sex Discrimination Case

Headshot of a man in a grey suit and tie standing in front of a brown wall
J. Cal Mayo Jr. is one of the lawyers representing the University of Mississippi Medical Center in a case that a former Black medical-school student, going by the pseudonym John Doe, brought against the school in 2021. Doe alleged that the school deprived him of due process following allegations of sexual misconduct against him. In a May 23, 2022, court filing in response to Doe's amended complaint, UMMC asked a federal judge to dismiss the case. Photo courtesy Mayo Mallette PLLC

The University of Mississippi Medical Center has again asked a federal judge to dismiss racial discrimination and deprivation of due process claims that a former first-year medical student brought against the school in 2021, arguing that the plaintiff did not properly respond to the federal judge’s requests. UMMC also claims that its sexual-misconduct investigation was not the first against the Black former student who is alleging mistreatment after a consensual relationship with a white woman student led to his dismissal.

On May 23, 2022, Mayo Mallette PLLC attorneys representing the school filed a response to the amended complaint that the plaintiff, using the pseudonym John Doe, filed via attorneys Michelle Owens and Joel Dillard on April 25, 2022. Three weeks before then, the court had permitted Owens, based out of Nashville, Tenn., to represent John Doe in the case.

John Doe, a Black former medical student of the school, said his romantic involvement with a white female classmate, identified by the pseudonym Jane Roe in court filings, in the first months of 2019 led to sexual misconduct and harassment claims against him in April that year. He denies the accusations and claimed that she made these allegations to appease her guilty conscience, as she had been participating in a romantic relationship with him while she was already engaged to another person, and that the authorities railroaded him in proceedings because he is a Black male. Doe’s allegation represents only one side of a legal dispute.

Doe named UMMC, former UMMC Associate Dean for Student Affairs Gerald Clark, UMMC Vice Dean of Medicine Loretta Jackson-Williams, Title IX Investigator Katie McClendon, former UMMC associate attorney Mark Ray, and UMMC Vice-Chancellor and School of Medicine Dean Dr. LouAnn Woodward as defendants in the April 25, 2022, amended complaint. UMMC Office of Communications and Marketing Executive Director Marc Rolph told the Mississippi Free Press by phone on March 28, 2022, that the school does not comment on court cases.

In their Monday response, the defendants wrote that John Doe did not make a good enough case, that he did not sufficiently remedy the deficiencies in the initial complaint filed in March 2021 and that they are entitled to qualified immunity. UMMC’s attorneys J. Cal Mayo Jr., Paul B. Watkins jr., J. Andrew Maudlin, and Breana F. G. Young of the Mayo Mallette PLLC law firm asserted that qualified immunity gives ample legal room for mistaken judgments.

Shadow of a man on the wall
Pictured is the shadow of a Black former student of the UMMC School of Medicine, who is using the pseudonym John Doe. He sued the school in 2021 on racial and sex discrimination allegations following his dismissal in 2019. Photo courtesy John Doe

“The Court gave Plaintiff John Doe an opportunity to comply with Rule 8 by filing an amended pleading presenting ‘a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,'” the defendants wrote. “Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint fails to correct the pleading errors of his original pleading and still does not comply with Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

“Plaintiff also failed to heed the Court’s instruction to plead his claims ‘in a way that allows a proper qualified-immunity analysis’ with respect to the individual Defendants,” the lawyers continue. “The Court should dismiss Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint in its entirety.”

U.S. Southern District of Mississippi Chief Judge Daniel P. Jordan III, in a ruling on March 15, 2022, asked the defendant to amend his March 2021 complaint. “Plaintiff’s Complaint falls short because it says too much and yet not enough,” Judge Jordan wrote at the time. The judge said that when the defendants first asked him to dismiss the case in June 2021, they wrote that the initial complaint John Doe filed in March 2021 fails to offer a short and plain statement showing he is entitled to relief.

“That’s true,” the judge added. “While Plaintiff says Defendants can simply ignore those allegations when they file their Answers, Plaintiff sprinkled those now-irrelevant allegations throughout the Complaint, making it difficult to discern what remains to address.”

Inside view of a courtroom with orange walls
On April 7, 2022, a federal judge granted Michelle Owens, based out of Nashville, Tenn., clearance to represent John Doe in the case he brought against the University of Mississippi, alleging racial discrimination. Photo by Robert Linder on Unsplash

The judge wrote in March 2022 that an amended complaint, eliminating portions of the original complaint, should not include unnecessary commentary and legal arguments.

On Monday, the defendants contended that John Doe did not comply with the judge’s demands. “The scattershot allegations of Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint are not sufficient to overcome qualified immunity, and they ignore the Court’s directives,” defendants wrote. “The Amended Complaint also makes no attempt to separate Plaintiff’s non-actionable gripes from any facts that could plausibly state a claim.”

“Defendant Ray is still charged with asking Doe’s counsel whether he practiced criminal law,” the lawyers added. “Defendant McClendon is accused of wrongdoing because she ‘performed in a production of The Vagina Monologues’ and (correctly) “informed Plaintiff that the Title IX  process he suffered through was required as a condition of money the University received from the federal government.”

Doe Again Alleges Dismissal ‘Without Sufficient Evidence’

The plaintiff, for his part, has reduced his initial 92-page complaint to 64 pages and reduced the number of defendants from nine to six.

“Without sufficient evidence, the University wrongfully expelled Plaintiff for vague allegations of ‘unprofessional behavior’ and then attempted to retroactively justify said bogus dismissal through a flawed and biased Title IX investigation for the same alleged conduct,” the plaintiff wrote in the April 25 submission to the Court.  “Notably, Plaintiff was not given a hearing or opportunity to defend himself until after the determination had already been made in both disciplinary proceedings.”

Title IX prohibits sex-based discrimination at federally funded universities. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center said that Title IX extends to all types of sexual harassment and assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking.

John Doe wrote that it was double jeopardy for him to be dismissed first on April 16, 2019, for exhibiting “unprofessional behavior” without an opportunity to defend himself, followed by Title IX proceedings on the same allegations that found him guilty in a letter dated June 29, 2019.

UMMC: Doe Expelled After Inappropriate Behavior

UMMC lawyers wrote on Monday that the professionalism panel had decided to expel John Doe after “three different women at UMMC” reported that “Plaintiff had engaged in inappropriate behavior toward them.” The lawyers did not outline the nature of the “inappropriate behavior.” They said the school expelled him once again after a Title IX investigation found him guilty of sexual misconduct against Jane Roe.

Aerial view of the UMMC Campus.
A Black former student is suing the University of Mississippi Medical Center on allegations that the leadership dismissed him without due process. Photo courtesy UMMC News Facebook

John Doe contended that not only was he not allowed to defend himself before his dismissal for alleged unprofessionalism, but that his treatment was too harsh. “In Plaintiff’s case, however, UMMC inflicted the unduly harsh sanction of dismissal upon Plaintiff before the Title IX investigation was commenced, under the guise of unspecified ‘professionalism’ charges,” his lawyers wrote in the amended complaint.

“UMMC’s tendency to afford white students more due process than Black students is not limited to this isolated incident,” the plaintiff continued. “On information and belief, a white medical resident, when facing multiple accusations of sexual misconduct, was not officially removed from the residency program until after the conclusion of the Title IX investigation.”

The plaintiff’s lawyers alleged in the amended April 25, 2022, complaint that “Defendants Clark, Williams, McClendon, and Ray deprived Plaintiff of his liberty and property interests without affording him basic due process, including but not limited to, his right to a fair adjudication free of bias, his right to be innocent until shown to be responsible and not be subjected to the burden of proving innocence, his right to be heard by an impartial factfinder upon proper notice of the allegations after a fair, thorough and impartial investigation, his right to question his accuser, challenge the credibility of the accusers as well as other adverse witnesses and the right to present evidence and witnesses in support of his defense.”

“Plaintiff was further denied of his right to a fair appeal and his academic transcript has been permanently marked,” they added. “He will suffer lifelong damages as a result of the University’s sanction.”

UMMC wrote on Monday that the school found the plaintiff guilty of sexual misconduct and expelled him after Jane Roe, with whom John Doe had an intimate relationship, filed a complaint with UMMC’s Title IX coordinator, Pamela Greenwood, charging the plaintiff with sexual misconduct.

UMMC Campus class building at dawn
In March 2022, UMMC Office of Communications and Marketing Executive Director Marc Rolph informed the Mississippi Free Press by phone that the school does not comment on court cases. Photo courtesy UMMC / Patrick O’Brien

“After an investigation and hearing, Plaintiff was found responsible for sexual misconduct and expelled,” UMMC added. “Plaintiff claims he was deprived of his rights to due process and equal protection and that he was dismissed because of his race and sex.”

The plaintiff claims the proceedings violated his rights and that pressure from the federal government to respond aggressively to complaints of sexual misconduct and local pressure from the campus community influenced the school’s action.

He also alleged that his treatment followed a pattern of routinely denying due process to and treating Black students worse than white students. The plaintiff claimed that he is entitled to judicial redress because the experience has damaged him physically, emotionally and psychologically. He added that he had suffered harm to his reputation and had recorded losses in economic, educational and career opportunities.

UMMC and the other defendants argued on Monday that the plaintiff’s allegations were anything but “simple, concise, and direct.”

“He drafted them without regard to the Court’s admonition to comply with Rule 8 or Defendants’ obligation to fairly meet the substance of the allegations,” they said. “The Court should dismiss the Amended Complaint in its entirety.”

“Plaintiff could not cite specific case law in response to Defendants’ first Motion to Dismiss that would have put the individual Defendants on notice that their actions violated his clearly established rights,” they continued. “His Amended Complaint has not materially changed his allegations. The individual Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity, and the claims against them should be dismissed.”

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