Thursday, November 7, 2013

Cohen v. Brown University case brief

Cohen v. Brown University case brief summary
991 F.2d 888 (1993)

Defendants, university and officials, challenged the United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island order, granting a preliminary injunction reinstating women's athletic programs pending the resolution of plaintiff female students' class action for gender-based discrimination, Title IX, 20 U.S.C.S. §§ 1681-1688. They alleged violation of U.S. Const.amend. V, an error in the burden of proof, and an inappropriate remedy.

Plaintiffs, female students, filed a class action against defendants, university and officials, under Title IX, 20 U.S.C.S. §§ 1681-1688, alleging gender-based discrimination in the removal of certain women's athletic programs from varsity status. The trial court granted a preliminary injunction reinstating the programs, pending resolution of the action and defendants sought review. They asserted a violation of U.S.Const. amend. V, error in the burden of proof, and claimed an improper remedy.

  • The court affirmed. It held that the plain meaning of the statute did not offend the constitution. 
  • It ruled that plaintiffs made out an athletic discrimination case by proving numerical disparity, coupled with unmet interest, by a fair preponderance of the credible evidence. 
  • Although the district court misplaced the burden of proof, this was harmless error. Its subsidiary findings that great interest among female students would go unserved by the program cuts established that plaintiffs met their burden of proof. 
  • Thus, the district court's prediction of plaintiffs' probable success on the merits was adequately grounded. 
  • The interim remedy was within the district court's discretion.
The court affirmed the preliminary injunction reinstating certain women's athletic programs to varsity status until the final outcome of plaintiff female students' gender-based discrimination action against defendants, university and officials. The district court committed harmless error in misplacing the burden of proof. Plaintiffs amply showed a likelihood of success on the merits and the remedy was within the district court's discretion.

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