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Federal judge dismisses Title IX lawsuit filed against the University of Arizona
Arizona Athletics

Federal judge dismisses Title IX lawsuit filed against the University of Arizona

Former Wildcats running back Orlando Bradford pleaded guilty to two counts of domestic violence-related aggravated assault and was sentenced to five years in prison in 2017.

One of two federal lawsuits related to the UA’s handling of abuse complaints against former Wildcats running back Orlando Bradford was dismissed Wednesday.

The plaintiff’s lawyer, Isabel Humphrey, said she would likely be filing post-trial motions and/or an appeal in the upcoming weeks.

“We respect the District Court’s decision to grant the motion for summary judgment, and we wish only the best for (the plaintiff) and her future success,” the UA said in a statement provided to the Star.

In September 2016, Bradford was arrested after the plaintiff in the now-dismissed lawsuit — a fellow UA student — told Tucson police he held her against her will in his off-campus apartment and physically abused her over the course of two days. The next day, a second student came forward and said Bradford had also been abusing her for several months.

The Star does not typically name victims of domestic or dating violence.

The UA immediately kicked Bradford off the football team. A year later, he pleaded guilty to two counts of domestic violence-related aggravated assault and was ultimately sentenced to five years in prison.

In September 2017, the first woman to call police filed a lawsuit against the state on behalf of the UA, saying officials knew Bradford was a danger to female students but failed to take appropriate action to protect her. The case, which accused UA officials of violating the woman’s Title IX rights to an education free from discrimination, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress was removed to federal court a month later.

In September, the plaintiff and the Arizona attorney general’s office — the UA’s lawyer — agreed to drop the second and third counts of the lawsuit. In November, the attorney general’s office filed a motion asking the judge to “isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims,” according to the Wednesday’s order dismissing the lawsuit.

One of two federal lawsuits related to the UA’s handling of abuse complaints against Bradford was dismissed. The second lawsuit is scheduled to proceed to trial later next month.

Chief U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow said in his ruling that lawsuits of this nature are only available when the recipient of federal funding “had adequate notice that they could be liable for the conduct at issue.”

The ruling went on to say that a successful Title IX case for student-to-student harassment requires the plaintiff prove four factors: that the defendant had actual knowledge of the harassment; the defendant was “deliberately indifferent” to the harassment in a way that allowed the harassment to continue; the plaintiff suffered such severe and pervasive harassment that it deprived them of educational opportunities; and the defendant exercised substantial control over both the harasser and the context in which the harassment occurred.

“While it is undeniable that (the UA) exercised substantial control over Bradford, plaintiff has not offered any evidence that (the UA) exercised substantial control over the context in which her abuse occurred,” Snow said in the ruling, adding that the UA therefore cannot be liable for the plaintiff’s harassment under Title IX.

The woman said Bradford’s assault on her took place away from the UA campus. She based her claim in the lawsuit on the UA’s knowledge of Bradford’s abuse of the second student to report him to police and a third student who did not file charges, the ruling says.

Because the plaintiff used the UA’s knowledge of prior harassment as the source of the UA’s liability to protect her, she needed to prove that the UA exercised control over the environment of her harassment, which she failed to do during the discovery process, according to the ruling.

“We work very hard to engender trust in the reporting process and an understanding that we want students to report so we can respond with resources and support, knowing that we take complaints seriously, react quickly and endeavor to address their short-term and long-term needs,” said Mary Beth Tucker, the UA’s interim associate vice president of equity and Title IX coordinator.

“The people who work on the front lines of Title IX do so because they care deeply about these issues and want them addressed.”

The second lawsuit, filed in January 2018 by the second student to report Bradford to police, is scheduled to proceed to trial later next month, court records show.

“We also encourage any student needing assistance to access the support resources available at the university, including the assistance of the Dean of Students Office, the Survivor Advocates and our health services,” the UA said in its statement about the ruling.

Contact reporter Caitlin Schmidt at cschmidt@tucson.com or 573-4191. On Twitter: @caitlincschmidt.

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