Title IX and University Misconduct

Munger, Tolles & Olson represents higher education institutions in a wide range of litigation and investigatory matters.

We have deep experience representing higher education institutions in connection with their most challenging legal issues, including Title IX issues, and have achieved important wins for colleges and universities at both the trial and appellate levels.

Sexual Misconduct

We regularly represent higher education and secondary education institutions in other types of Title IX and related matters arising out of student and faculty discipline for sexual misconduct, including:

  • Defending against administrative writ challenges to student, faculty, and staff conduct hearing proceedings that have resulted in discipline for alleged sexual misconduct.
  • Defending against other discrimination and civil rights lawsuits filed by faculty members accused of sexual misconduct.
  • Defending against lawsuits alleging vicarious liability and negligent hiring, retention, and supervision arising out of incidents of employee sexual misconduct, including where the employee was faculty, staff and/or a health care professional.
  • Representing a university’s administration in proving charges of faculty sexual misconduct before the university’s Academic Senate.
  • Representing a university in a Department of Education Clery Act program review.
  • Defending against efforts to obtain sexual misconduct investigator’s notes and drafts through California Public Records Act requests.

Title IX Damages Lawsuits

We have extensive experience working on Title IX matters.  Our lawyers have recently represented and/or are currently representing higher education clients in numerous civil actions filed by students, faculty, and staff claiming monetary damages under Title IX.  The breadth and depth of our experience in higher education sexual misconduct matters has enabled us to achieve significant wins at both the trial and appellate levels in areas.

We have defended against complainant Title IX challenges to the adequacy of schools’ responses to reports of sexual harassment.

We have also defended against respondent Title IX lawsuits alleging gender discrimination against men accused of sexual misconduct.

Investigations and Criminal Defense

We represent colleges and universities in internal and government investigations, criminal prosecutions, and False Claims Act matters:

  • Conducting independent internal investigations into sexual misconduct at independent boarding and day schools and colleges and universities.
  • Conducting a University of California system-wide internal investigation relating to “Varsity Blues” allegations.
  • Advising on best practices in college admissions, with particular emphasis on procedures for avoiding “Varsity Blues” issues.
  • Investigating whistleblower retaliation claims by faculty and staff members and defending universities in lawsuits alleging whistleblower retaliation.
  • Investigating allegations of a prescription drug fraud scheme affecting a university’s student health insurance plan and successfully obtaining an injunction to halt the scheme.
  • Investigating misconduct allegations regarding licensing of university intellectual property, use of federal grant funds, and conflicts of interest relating to a faculty member’s start-up company.
  • Advising on and negotiating a favorable settlement relating to a Cal-OSHA investigation into a university workplace accident.
  • Helping a university avoid a threatened felony prosecution arising out of a lab accident that resulted in a student’s death.

Free Speech and Civil Rights

We represent colleges and universities in litigation challenging regulation of controversial speech and admissions policies:

  • Obtained dismissal of a Public Records Act lawsuit against the University of California related to race-related admissions data.
  • Successfully defended UC Berkeley against a First Amendment challenge to the school’s handling of issues relating to certain controversial guest speakers as well as against lawsuits brought by third parties injured during speaker events.
  • Defended the University of California against a challenge to the use of standardized tests in admissions.
  • Obtaining dismissal of constitutional and Title VI challenges to a university’s handling of alleged harassment of Jewish students.
  • Obtaining dismissal of a constitutional challenge contending that the University of California’s high school curriculum requirements discriminate against certain schools that incorporate Christian teachings into secular subjects.
  • Successfully defending a university’s admissions policies from challenges under the Constitution and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and obtaining a settlement that did not require any policy changes.
  • Obtaining dismissal of a Proposition 209 challenge to a university’s admissions policies.
  • Advising the University of California in its development of policies relating to outside speakers and other activities implicating the First Amendment.

Labor and Employment Litigation

We represent colleges and universities in high-exposure labor and employment litigation matters involving faculty and senior administrators:

  • Successfully defended against race and national origin discrimination claims by the former dean of the UC Berkeley law school.
  • Currently defending a university against a national origin discrimination claim by a senior faculty member.
  • Obtaining dismissal of a UCLA Medical Center senior administrator’s claim that his removal was retaliation for reporting patient safety issues.
  • Defending a university against a senior faculty member’s whistleblower retaliation claim.
  • Representing California State University in lawsuits by a high-profile faculty member alleging religious discrimination and failure to accommodate a disability.
  • Advising universities on employment decisions related to First Amendment activity by faculty members.

Representative Clients

  • University of California (including all ten campuses and five academic medical centers)
  • NCAA
  • Stanford University
  • University of Oregon
  • University of North Carolina
  • California State University
  • Harvard Law Review
  • Caltech
  • Corinthian Colleges

Representative Experience

  • Representing the University of California in Karasek v. Regents of the University of California, No. 4:15-cv-03717 (N.D. Cal.), and 956 F.3d 1093 (9th Cir. 2020), a Title IX lawsuit for damages filed by three UC Berkeley students who allege the University was deliberately indifferent to their sexual assaults and that the University’s policy of deliberate indifference caused their sexual assaults.  The Ninth Circuit’s published opinion affirms the stringent showing required for post-assault deliberate indifference.
  • Obtaining dismissal on the pleadings of a lawsuit filed by a graduate student complainant alleging deliberate indifference and retaliation under Title IX.  The appeal is currently pending in the Ninth Circuit.  Justine Tanjaya v. Regents of the University of California, Case No. 20-55040.
  • Representing the NCAA in a nationwide class action seeking damages and injunctive relief, filed on behalf of a class of NCAA student-athletes from 1992 to the present who allege that the NCAA’s negligently failed to enact and enforce policies prohibiting sexual abuse by coaches.  We successfully obtained dismissal on the pleadings for lack of personal jurisdiction and will continue to defend the NCAA following transfer of the lawsuit to federal court in the Southern District of Indiana.
  • Obtaining a published opinion by the California Court of Appeal, Doe v. Regents, 5 Cal.App.5th 1055, 1073 (2016), that is one of the leading authorities regarding the applicable standard in administrative mandate proceedings and the requisite due process and fair hearing procedures in student sexual misconduct matters.


Hailyn Chen
Bryan Heckenlively
Katherine Forster
Carolyn Luedtke

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