ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A federal judge heard arguments Friday whether a former George Mason University student could sue the school anonymously but he did not issue a ruling.
The former student says he was expelled in violation of his due process rights following accusations he sexually assaulted a woman. He maintains what happened was not rape, but rather sadomasochistic role-playing, which was part of their relationship.
A magistrate judge had previously allowed the ex-student to file the suit under the pseudonym “John Doe.” But District Judge T.S. Ellis III called the magistrate’s decision to grant the anonymous filing without a soliciting feedback from all parties was “unfair” and “wrong.” He said no notice was given that would have allowed the defense or members of the public to weigh in on what amounts to sealing a portion of the case.
The ex-student’s lawyer, Justin Dillon, argued that his client is trying to clear his name, and that by revealing it in court proceedings, “he will have to tar his name” by connecting himself to rape allegations and details of his sexual relationship.
The judge also asked if details of the ex-student’s sadomasochistic relationship were relevant to claims that his rights were violated.
Dillon argued there was a “certain amount of force involved” during the couple’s encounters and the relationship dynamic “goes to the heart of consent.” In the relationship, “No didn’t mean no” and “stop didn’t mean stop.” Instead, the couple relied on a safe word, Dillon said.
Representing the university, associate university counsel and Assistant Attorney General David Drummey stated there was nothing on the record to show that such sexual practices are taboo or atypical, and that it would not qualify as “sensitive and highly personal” information that would warrant anonymity.
The ex-student’s lawsuit says his expulsion was the result of gender bias and violated his right to engage in constitutionally protected sexual activity. He wants the violation removed from his student record, and he’s seeking $3 million in damages.
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