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Stefanowicz v. Bucknell University

October 5, 2010

KELLY STEFANOWICZ, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BUCKNELL UNIVERSITY, ET AL., DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Yvette Kane, Chief Judge United States District Court Middle District of Pennsylvania

(Chief Judge Kane)

MEMORANDUM ORDER

Pending before the Court is Plaintiff Kelly Stefanowicz's emergency motion for a preliminary injunction. (Doc. No. 2.) In her motion, Plaintiff asks the Court to enjoin Defendants from conducting a Hearing Board for Sexual Misconduct ("HBSM hearing") involving Plaintiff and Reed Dempsey, on October 5, 2010. For the following reasons, the Court must deny the motion for a preliminary injunction.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff is a 19-year-old student who lives on campus at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. Plaintiff alleges that on September 5, 2010, at approximately 2:00 a.m., she was physically and sexually assaulted by Reed Dempsey ("Dempsey"), also a 19-year-old Bucknell student. As a result of her injuries, Plaintiff was treated at Evangelical Hospital in Lewisburg, where an evaluation resulted in a determination that evidence, including substantial bruising to Plaintiff's face, right breast, thighs and wrists, supported Plaintiff's allegation of sexual assault.

The Union County District Attorney, in conjunction with the Bucknell University Police Department, filed criminal charges against Dempsey related to the attack, and those charges are pending. A preliminary hearing was initially scheduled for September 23, 2010, but on Dempsey's motion was rescheduled to November 4, 2010. Plaintiff also filed an internal charge at Bucknell against Dempsey.

Plaintiff avers that, in retaliation for her claims of assault, Dempsey attempted to have the Union County District Attorney and Bucknell Police file criminal charges against her. Both the Union County District Attorney and Bucknell Police refused to file any such charges. Dempsey subsequently filed a student complaint with Bucknell against Plaintiff "contending she sexually assaulted him in the groin, and that she filed false charges against him." (Doc. No. 1207 ¶ 18.)

Although Kari Conrad, Bucknell's Associate Dean of Students, advised Plaintiff's attorney that it was Bucknell's policy that no internal action would be taken until the conclusion of Dempsey's criminal preliminary hearing, this policy has not been followed in Plaintiff's case. On September 14, 2010, Dempsey's criminal defense attorney successfully moved the September 23, 2010 criminal hearing to November 4, 2010. The very next day, September 15, 2010, Plaintiff's counsel was notified by Defendant Wayne Bromfield, Bucknell's general counsel, that Bucknell would conduct its internal hearing on October 5, 2010. Despite counsel's urgent request on Plaintiff's behalf in two separate letters, the University has refused to postpone its internal proceedings.

Plaintiff filed the present motion for a preliminary injunction with this Court on Saturday, October 2, 2010.

II. DISCUSSION

Plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction is governed by Rule 65(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. An injunction is an "extraordinary remedy" that is never awarded as of right. Winter v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 129 S.Ct. 365, 375 (2008).*fn1 "A party seeking a preliminary injunction must satisfy the traditional four-factor test: (1) a likelihood of success on the merits; (2) he or she will suffer irreparable harm if the injunction is denied; (3) granting relief will not result in even greater harm to the nonmoving party; and (4) the public interest favors such relief." Miller v. Mitchell, 598 F.3d 139, 147 (3d Cir. 2010) (citing Child Evangelism Fellowship of N.J. Inc. v. Stafford Twp. Sch. Dist., 386 F.3d 514, 524 (3d Cir. 2004)).

In her motion for injunctive relief, Plaintiff has pointed to several different constitutional provisions and federal statutes which she contends should be the basis for relief. The Court will write briefly to address Plaintiff's constitutional claims. The bulk of the Court's analysis, however, will be on the appropriateness of a preliminary injunction based on Plaintiff's Title IX claim.

A. Constitutional Claims

Plaintiff first contends that injunctive relief should issue in this case because compelling her to attend the HBSM hearing on October 5, 2010, would violate her due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. (Doc. No. 1207-3 at 4-5.) Specifically, Plaintiff argues that she is "being compelled to decide between going forward with the [HBSM] hearing at the expense of her constitutional rights as a victim or not attending the [HBSM] hearing, subjecting her to be found guilty in absentia and to academic sanctions that will permanently and adversely affect her future." (Id. at 6.) Plaintiff ...


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