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Case: Cohen v. Brown University

1:92-cv-00197 | U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island

Filed Date: April 9, 1992

Case Ongoing

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

In 1991, Brown University announced that it was going to eliminate four sports: women’s volleyball, women’s gymnastics, men’s golf, and men’s water polo. Brown explained that the teams could still compete as club sports, but it was no longer able to provide university funding for financial reasons. At that time, Brown’s student body was 52 percent male and 48 percent female, but 63 percent of its athletes were male.On April 9, 1992, affected women students filed this class action lawsuit, claim…

In 1991, Brown University announced that it was going to eliminate four sports: women’s volleyball, women’s gymnastics, men’s golf, and men’s water polo. Brown explained that the teams could still compete as club sports, but it was no longer able to provide university funding for financial reasons. At that time, Brown’s student body was 52 percent male and 48 percent female, but 63 percent of its athletes were male.

On April 9, 1992, affected women students filed this class action lawsuit, claiming discrimination under Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972. The named plaintiffs included student members of the women’s gymnastics and volleyball teams at Brown. The plaintiffs alleged that the decision to eliminate these teams was a violation of Title IX, because it was based on the stereotype that men are more interested in sports participation than are women.

On May 4, 1992, Brown filed a motion to dismiss, and the court granted the plaintiffs’ motion for class certification a week later. On July 15, 1992, the plaintiffs filed a motion for preliminary injunction. On August 7, 1992, the court denied Brown’s motion to dismiss.

On October 26, 1992, a bench hearing on the preliminary injunction was held over a period of 15 days. On December 22, 1992, the court (Judge Raymond Pettine) granted a preliminary injunction prohibiting Brown from eliminating the women’s gymnastics and volleyball programs. Specifically, in the preliminary injunction, the court ordered Brown to restore women’s gymnastics and women’s volleyball to their former status and prohibited the elimination or reduction of university funding for the two sports. 809 F. Supp. 978.

On December 29, 1992, Brown appealed. The First Circuit Court of Appeals granted a temporary stay, holding the injunction in abeyance while it decided the appeal. On April 19, 1993, the Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s decision on the preliminary injunction. The court held that trial court did not abuse its discretion by issuing an injunction, and the case was remanded to the district court for further proceedings. 991 F.2d 888.

The trial on the merits began September 28, 1994. Two and a half months into the trial, on December 16, the parties reached a partial settlement agreement. The agreement settled the plaintiffs’ allegations that significant disparities existed in the relative financial support of and benefits given to men’s and women’s university-funded varsity teams. The inequality in funding between male and female varsity teams had never been in contention. The dispute involving the overall difference between male and female opportunities for participation continued. The settlement agreement regarding varsity teams “did not resolve any program-wide treatment inequities. Rather, it settled only the relative support afforded to men’s and women’s university-funded teams [as opposed to donor-funded teams] as to which there is no dispute concerning their university-funded varsity status.” In essence, and as the docket stated on December 16, 1994, the “Settlement Agreement” was a stipulation acknowledging the inequality of opportunities to participate in university-funded activities, and a dismissal of the claims surrounding that issue. 879 F. Supp. 185.

The trial concluded with final arguments on December 16 after 29 days in court. The attorneys addressed the court on a possible settlement on treatment issues, then discussed participation issues. The court issued its final opinion and order, finding for the plaintiffs, on March 29, 1995. The court held that: (1) the university violated Title IX by failing to effectively accommodate interests and abilities of women athletes, failing to steadily increase the number of opportunities for women, and failing to effectively remedy athletic interests and ability of women, and (2) the two-tiered structure of intercollegiate varsity program failed to provide equal treatment of athletes. Brown was given 120 days to come up with a comprehensive plan for complying with Title IX. 879 F. Supp. 185.

On April 19, 1995, Brown appealed the district court’s ruling, claiming error in certain evidentiary rulings made during the trial and in the district court’s order of specific relief in place of Brown’s proposed compliance plan. In addition, Brown challenged on constitutional and statutory grounds the test employed by the district court in determining whether the university’s intercollegiate athletics program complied with Title IX.

On May 4, 1995, the district court issued a modified order, requiring Brown to submit a compliance plan within 60 days. Finding that Brown’s proposed compliance plan was not comprehensive and that it failed to comply with the previous order, the district court rejected the plan and ordered in its place specific relief consistent with Brown’s stated objectives in formulating the plan. On August 17, 1995, Brown University was ordered to elevate and maintain women’s gymnastics, women’s water polo, women’s skiing, and women’s fencing to university-funded varsity status.

The district court entered final judgment on September 1, 1995, and on September 27, denied Brown’s motion for additional findings of fact and to amend the judgment. 879 F.Supp. 185.

Brown appealed the judgment in September 1995. On November 21, 1996, the appellate court found no error in the district court’s factual findings or in its interpretation and application of the law in determining that Brown violated Title IX in the operation of its intercollegiate athletics program. Applying the three-prong test of the Policy Interpretation, the court held that participation opportunities were not provided in substantial proportion to enrollment, and that the university had not shown either a practice of program expansion or full and effective accommodation of the interests and abilities of its women students. The court found that Brown had violated each of the 3 prongs of Title IX. Due to the 11% gap between opportunities for male and female athletes and their respective student enrollment, and because the university had not previously engaged in the continued expansion of women’s sports, Brown did not meet the substantially proportionate standard. The appellate court affirmed in all respects the district court’s analysis and its rulings on the issue of liability.

However, the appellate court found error in the district court’s award of specific relief and therefore remanded the case to the district court for reconsideration of the remedy. The appellate court found that Brown’s proposal to cut men’s teams was a permissible means of effectuating compliance with the statute. The appellate court stated that the district court was wrong to reject Brown’s alternative plan to reduce the number of men’s varsity teams. Chief Judge Juan R. Torruella dissented and indicated that he would have reversed the District Court’s decision. 101 F.3d 155.

On April 21, 1997, Brown submitted to the district court a new proposed compliance plan. The plan included eliminating men’s positions without eliminating any men’s teams; enforcing team minimums and maximums to stabilize relative proportions of men and women; and creating additional women’s intercollegiate opportunities. In order to comply with the court’s criteria that “intercollegiate level participation opportunities [be] provided in numbers substantially proportionate to their respective enrollment,” Brown decided to calculate the ratio of female students to male students, and then, based on that number, mandate strict minimum participation numbers for female teams and strict maximum participation numbers for male teams. In the event that the court rejected Brown's plan, the proposal also included alternative plans to change the status of one or more men’s teams from university-funded to donor-funded status, or to eliminate one or more men’s varsity teams. The compliance agreement contained no duration information or enforcement information, possibly because Brown was still fighting against the judgment of the district court.

On June 23, 1998, following settlement discussions, the parties reached an agreement and settled all outstanding issues, except for attorneys’ fees and expenses. The settlement agreement had “indefinite duration,” and required relative participation on intercollegiate athletic teams to be within 3.5% of the gender ratio for undergraduate student enrollment. The agreement also stipulated that in the event Brown added any new men’s teams, the variation from the gender ratio of undergraduate student enrollment was to be no more than 2.25% and a women’s team would need to be added at the same time. The settlement also defined funding for both men’s and women’s donor-funded teams in the years immediately following the settlement. Annual reports were to be published to the plaintiffs. Additionally, a provision was added to prevent retaliation against any person who opposed any Title IX violations by Brown. On June 23, 1998, the court gave interim approval to the settlement agreement. Following notice to the members of the class, the court gave final approval to the settlement on October 8, 1998.

On October 16, 1998, the court entered a judgment in favor of the plaintiffs and established a schedule for them to submit their fee application.

The plaintiffs’ fee application was filed on December 7, 1998. They sought $1,023,842.50 in attorneys’ fees and $104,182.25 for their expenses. With interest (calculated through December 31, 1998), the combined amount sought for attorneys fees and expenses exceeded $1.4 million dollars. Brown contested the fee. During that contest, the case was reassigned to Judge Paul Barbadoro; on the recommendation of Magistrate Judge David Martin, on December 5, 2001, he granted attorneys’ fees and and costs of $1.08 million. In 2003, again on the Magistrate Judge’s recommendation, Judge Barbadoro granted another $250,000 for the fees incurred during the fee contest. Brown appealed, but settled that appeal later in 2003.

Nearly two decades later, Brown announced on May 28, 2020 that it was discontinuing six women’s varsity sports and five men’s varsity sports, in an effort to increase the competitiveness of the university’s 27 other varsity sports programs. The university specifically indicated that the decision to discontinue men’s track, field, and cross country was made to enable the university to remain in compliance with the 1998 settlement agreement. On June 9, 2020, the university then announced that it was reversing its decision to discontinue men’s track, field, and cross country, citing extensive feedback from the university community, especially students of color, about the importance of track, field, and cross country in their education. However, the university did not change its plans regarding any other sport.

Concerned that the decision to eliminate five women’s sports and only three mens sports would cause Brown to fall further out of compliance with the 1998 agreement, the plaintiffs filed a motion on June 29, 2020 to enforce the court’s 1998 judgment, to hold the university in contempt, and to grant an injunction prohibiting the university from discontinuing any women’s sports programs unless it demonstrated to the court that such discontinuation would not cause the school to fall out of compliance). They also moved to have the case reassigned to a sitting member of the District of Rhode Island (Judge Barbadoro had been assigned to the case as a visiting judge from the District of New Hampshire).

The case was reassigned to Chief Judge John J. McConnell, Jr. On July 2, 2020, the court ordered the university to “expeditiously produce to the Plaintiffs all information that Brown has as to the elimination of certain athletic teams as it relates to gender.” As of August 8, 2020, further developments in the case are pending.

Summary Authors

Ginny Lee (3/29/2017)

Megan Brown (10/23/2017)

Keagan Potts (3/19/2019)

Gregory Marsh (8/11/2020)

Sarah Portwood (11/20/2022)

People

For PACER's information on parties and their attrorneys, see: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/9905756/parties/cohen-v-brown-university/


Judge(s)

Barbadoro, Paul J. (New Hampshire)

Bownes, Hugh Henry (New Hampshire)

Pettine, Raymond James (Rhode Island)

Selya, Bruce Marshall (Rhode Island)

Stahl, Norman H. (Massachusetts)

Torruella, Juan R. (Puerto Rico)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Brueckner, Leslie A. (District of Columbia)

Bryant, Arthur H. (District of Columbia)

DeLuca, Amato A. (Rhode Island)

Duggan, Sandra L. (Pennsylvania)

Judge(s)

Barbadoro, Paul J. (New Hampshire)

Bownes, Hugh Henry (New Hampshire)

Pettine, Raymond James (Rhode Island)

Selya, Bruce Marshall (Rhode Island)

Stahl, Norman H. (Massachusetts)

Torruella, Juan R. (Puerto Rico)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Brueckner, Leslie A. (District of Columbia)

Bryant, Arthur H. (District of Columbia)

DeLuca, Amato A. (Rhode Island)

Duggan, Sandra L. (Pennsylvania)

Labinger, Lynette J (Rhode Island)

Marcaccio, Raymond A. (Rhode Island)

Newberg, Herbert B. (Pennsylvania)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Connolly, Walter B. Jr. (Michigan)

Ledbetter, Beverly E. (Rhode Island)

Michaelson, Jeffrey S. (Rhode Island)

Expert/Monitor/Master

Cyr, Conrad Keefe (Maine)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

1:92-cv-00197

Docket [PACER]

Nov. 17, 2004

Nov. 17, 2004

Docket
73

1:92-cv-00197

Opinion and Order

Dec. 22, 1992

Dec. 22, 1992

Order/Opinion
84

92-02483

Opinion

U. S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

April 16, 1993

April 16, 1993

Order/Opinion
161

1:92-cv-00197

Settlement Agreement and Stipulation of Dismissal in Regard to Equality of Treatment

Dec. 16, 1994

Dec. 16, 1994

Order/Opinion
202

1:92-cv-00197

Opinion and Order

March 29, 1995

March 29, 1995

Order/Opinion
254

95-02205

Opinion

U. S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

Nov. 21, 1996

Nov. 21, 1996

Order/Opinion
395

1:92-cv-00197

Amendment to the Joint Agreement

Dec. 21, 2020

Dec. 21, 2020

Order/Opinion
403

21-1032

Opinion of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

U. S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

Oct. 28, 2021

Oct. 28, 2021

Order/Opinion

1:92-cv-00197

Stipulated Order Regarding Class Counsel's Fees and Expenses

Nov. 8, 2022

Nov. 8, 2022

Order/Opinion

1:92-cv-00197

Joint Agreement

Cohen v. Brown

None

None

Settlement Agreement

Resources

Docket

See docket on RECAP: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/9905756/cohen-v-brown-university/

Last updated Nov. 20, 2022, 2:40 p.m.

ECF Number Description Date Link Date / Link
1

Complaint

April 9, 1992

April 9, 1992

PACER
2

Motion to Certify Class

April 9, 1992

April 9, 1992

PACER
3

Motion to Appear Pro Hac Vice

April 9, 1992

April 9, 1992

PACER
4

Affidavit

April 9, 1992

April 9, 1992

PACER
5

Affidavit

April 9, 1992

April 9, 1992

PACER
6

Affidavit

April 9, 1992

April 9, 1992

PACER

Summons Issued

April 9, 1992

April 9, 1992

PACER

Case Referred

April 13, 1992

April 13, 1992

PACER
7

Notice to Take Deposition

April 27, 1992

April 27, 1992

PACER
8

Response/Reply - Miscellaneous

April 27, 1992

April 27, 1992

PACER
9

Response/Reply - Miscellaneous

April 27, 1992

April 27, 1992

PACER
10

Motion for Extension of Time

April 29, 1992

April 29, 1992

PACER
11

Amended Complaint

April 30, 1992

April 30, 1992

PACER
12

Response in Support of Motion

April 30, 1992

April 30, 1992

PACER
13

Motion for Miscellaneous Relief

April 30, 1992

April 30, 1992

PACER

Motions Referred

May 1, 1992

May 1, 1992

PACER
14

Motion to Dismiss

May 4, 1992

May 4, 1992

PACER
15

Motion to Dismiss

May 4, 1992

May 4, 1992

PACER
16

Motion to Dismiss

May 4, 1992

May 4, 1992

PACER

Status Conference

May 4, 1992

May 4, 1992

PACER
17

Order

May 12, 1992

May 12, 1992

PACER
18

Order

May 12, 1992

May 12, 1992

PACER
19

Order

May 12, 1992

May 12, 1992

PACER

Motions No Longer Referred

May 12, 1992

May 12, 1992

PACER
20

Order

May 15, 1992

May 15, 1992

PACER
21

Response/Reply - Miscellaneous

May 18, 1992

May 18, 1992

PACER
22

Response in Support of Motion

May 26, 1992

May 26, 1992

PACER

Remark

May 26, 1992

May 26, 1992

PACER
23

Motion for Extension of Time

May 29, 1992

May 29, 1992

PACER

Motions Referred

June 1, 1992

June 1, 1992

PACER

Remark

June 1, 1992

June 1, 1992

PACER
24

Motion to Compel

June 2, 1992

June 2, 1992

PACER
25

Response in Opposition to Motion

June 2, 1992

June 2, 1992

PACER

Motions Referred

June 10, 1992

June 10, 1992

PACER
26

Order

June 12, 1992

June 12, 1992

PACER
27

Notice to Take Deposition

July 8, 1992

July 8, 1992

PACER
28

Motion for Preliminary Injunction

July 15, 1992

July 15, 1992

PACER
29

Notice to Take Deposition

July 20, 1992

July 20, 1992

PACER
30

Motion for Extension of Time

July 20, 1992

July 20, 1992

PACER
31

Motion for Extension of Time

July 24, 1992

July 24, 1992

PACER
32

Response/Reply - Miscellaneous

July 24, 1992

July 24, 1992

PACER

Motions Referred

July 27, 1992

July 27, 1992

PACER
33

Motion for Extension of Time

Aug. 4, 1992

Aug. 4, 1992

PACER
34

Order

Aug. 7, 1992

Aug. 7, 1992

PACER
35

Order

Aug. 7, 1992

Aug. 7, 1992

PACER
36

Response in Support of Motion

Aug. 13, 1992

Aug. 13, 1992

PACER

Motions Referred

Aug. 20, 1992

Aug. 20, 1992

PACER
37

Response/Reply - Miscellaneous

Aug. 24, 1992

Aug. 24, 1992

PACER
38

Motion for Extension of Time

Aug. 24, 1992

Aug. 24, 1992

PACER
39

Motion to Withdraw

Aug. 24, 1992

Aug. 24, 1992

PACER
40

Order

Aug. 24, 1992

Aug. 24, 1992

PACER
41

Motion for Extension of Time

Sept. 2, 1992

Sept. 2, 1992

PACER
42

Order

Sept. 4, 1992

Sept. 4, 1992

PACER

Motions Referred

Sept. 4, 1992

Sept. 4, 1992

PACER
43

Order

Sept. 8, 1992

Sept. 8, 1992

PACER
44

Answer to Complaint

Sept. 8, 1992

Sept. 8, 1992

PACER

Notice of Hearing on Motion

Sept. 11, 1992

Sept. 11, 1992

PACER

Set/Reset Hearings

Sept. 11, 1992

Sept. 11, 1992

PACER
45

Notice of Appearance

Oct. 5, 1992

Oct. 5, 1992

PACER
46

Motion in Limine

Oct. 13, 1992

Oct. 13, 1992

PACER
47

Notice to Take Deposition

Oct. 13, 1992

Oct. 13, 1992

PACER
48

Notice to Take Deposition

Oct. 19, 1992

Oct. 19, 1992

PACER
49

Motion in Limine

Oct. 21, 1992

Oct. 21, 1992

PACER
50

Motion for Protective Order

Oct. 21, 1992

Oct. 21, 1992

PACER
51

Motion for Miscellaneous Relief

Oct. 22, 1992

Oct. 22, 1992

PACER
52

Response/Reply - Miscellaneous

Oct. 22, 1992

Oct. 22, 1992

PACER
53

Response/Reply - Miscellaneous

Oct. 22, 1992

Oct. 22, 1992

PACER
54

Order

Oct. 23, 1992

Oct. 23, 1992

PACER
55

Motion to Continue

Oct. 23, 1992

Oct. 23, 1992

PACER
56

Motion to Quash

Oct. 26, 1992

Oct. 26, 1992

PACER

Bench Trial - Held

Oct. 26, 1992

Oct. 26, 1992

PACER

Bench Trial - Held

Oct. 27, 1992

Oct. 27, 1992

PACER
57

Order

Oct. 28, 1992

Oct. 28, 1992

PACER
58

Order

Oct. 28, 1992

Oct. 28, 1992

PACER
59

Order

Oct. 28, 1992

Oct. 28, 1992

PACER

Bench Trial - Held

Oct. 28, 1992

Oct. 28, 1992

PACER
60

Order

Oct. 29, 1992

Oct. 29, 1992

PACER

Bench Trial - Held

Oct. 29, 1992

Oct. 29, 1992

PACER

Bench Trial - Held

Oct. 30, 1992

Oct. 30, 1992

PACER
61

Remark

Nov. 2, 1992

Nov. 2, 1992

PACER

Bench Trial - Held

Nov. 2, 1992

Nov. 2, 1992

PACER

Bench Trial - Held

Nov. 3, 1992

Nov. 3, 1992

PACER

Bench Trial - Held

Nov. 4, 1992

Nov. 4, 1992

PACER
62

Remark

Nov. 5, 1992

Nov. 5, 1992

PACER

Bench Trial - Held

Nov. 5, 1992

Nov. 5, 1992

PACER
78

Remark

Nov. 6, 1992

Nov. 6, 1992

PACER

Motion Withdrawn

Nov. 6, 1992

Nov. 6, 1992

PACER

Bench Trial - Held

Nov. 6, 1992

Nov. 6, 1992

PACER
63

Motion for Extension of Time

Nov. 9, 1992

Nov. 9, 1992

PACER
64

Motion for Extension of Time

Nov. 9, 1992

Nov. 9, 1992

PACER

Bench Trial - Held

Nov. 9, 1992

Nov. 9, 1992

PACER

Bench Trial - Held

Nov. 10, 1992

Nov. 10, 1992

PACER

Bench Trial - Held

Nov. 12, 1992

Nov. 12, 1992

PACER

Bench Trial - Held

Nov. 13, 1992

Nov. 13, 1992

PACER
65

Minutes - Miscellaneous

Nov. 16, 1992

Nov. 16, 1992

PACER

Bench Trial - Held

Nov. 16, 1992

Nov. 16, 1992

PACER
66

Remark

Nov. 19, 1992

Nov. 19, 1992

PACER
69

Motion for Extension of Time

Nov. 30, 1992

Nov. 30, 1992

PACER
70

Motion for Extension of Time

Nov. 30, 1992

Nov. 30, 1992

PACER
67

Order

Dec. 1, 1992

Dec. 1, 1992

PACER

Case Details

State / Territory: Rhode Island

Case Type(s):

Education

Key Dates

Filing Date: April 9, 1992

Case Ongoing: Yes

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

The plaintiff class comprises all present, future, and potential Brown University women students who participate, seek to participate, and/or are deterred from participating in intercollegiate athletics funded by Brown.

Plaintiff Type(s):

Private Plaintiff

Attorney Organizations:

Public Justice

Public Interest Lawyer: Yes

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: Yes

Class Action Outcome: Granted

Defendants

Brown University, Private Entity/Person

Defendant Type(s):

College/University

Case Details

Causes of Action:

42 U.S.C. § 1983

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. §§ 1681 et seq.

Constitutional Clause(s):

Equal Protection

Availably Documents:

Trial Court Docket

Monetary Relief

Injunctive (or Injunctive-like) Relief

Any published opinion

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Plaintiff

Nature of Relief:

Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement

Attorneys fees

Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order

Declaratory Judgment

Source of Relief:

Settlement

Litigation

Form of Settlement:

Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree

Private Settlement Agreement

Amount Defendant Pays: 1.08 million

Order Duration: 2003 - 2024

Content of Injunction:

Preliminary relief granted

Student assignment

Discrimination Prohibition

Monitoring

Training

Issues

General:

Classification / placement

Funding

Discrimination-area:

Sports

Discrimination-basis:

Sex discrimination

Affected Gender:

Female

Type of Facility:

Non-government non-profit