U-M forced to change handling of sex assault claims after lawsuit

- The University of Michigan was forced by a judge to rewrite its policy on sexual assault.

And this isn't about the victims -- it's about the accused. The attorney who launched these suits against U-M says this isn't about guilt or innocence - it's about giving anyone accused of sexual assault a chance to be heard before the university can take action against them.

"You must get due process of law before you're deprived of your property right at a public university that you're paying for," said attorney Deborah Gordon.

U-M was forced to overhaul how they handle sexual assault complaints due to a lawsuit filed by Gordon in 2016.

"Suddenly his world stops, there is nothing he can do," she said.

In June Gordon sat down with FOX 2 to discuss three similar cases. She says her clients, U-M students, were forced to leave the university without a fair chance to give their side after being accused of sexual assault. 

In all cases of student misconduct that the Title 9 office handles besides sexual assault complaints - the accused gets a recorded hearing - basically an informal trial. 

"You get to cross examine your accuser and your accuser can put questions to you in front of a university panel," she said. "But if you're accused of sexual misconduct none of that happens." 

In cases of sexual assault - a single Title 9 investigator with varying degrees of investigative experience, questions the accused and accuser separately then makes a decision.

"It is a red flag when you carve out a separate policy which is exactly what U-M has done," Gordon said.

In one client's case - Gordon says the Title 9 investigator did not find evidence of sexual assault. The accuser appealed and the decision was reversed. He was forced to leave 13 credits shy of graduating.

"His life has really been changed in very significant ways you can only imagine," Gordon said.

That policy has to change according to this week's decision by the Sixth circuit court - it applies to any university with separate rule book for sexual assault complaints.

"They've gone so far to try and protect women that they have allowed the truth to get lost in the process," Gordon said. "It doesn't seem to me like it is a search for the truth."

The University of Michigan has another option to keep fighting - they can appeal the decision but this time it has to be with the U-S Supreme Court.

WEB UPDATE (10-12): The University of Michigan has released a statement:

"At this point, all we can share with you is that University of Michigan officials will need to study the court's decision and discuss next steps."

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