A lawsuit related to the UA’s handling of abuse complaints against former Wildcats running back Orlando Bradford will proceed to trial, a federal judge ruled Friday.
Bradford is serving a five-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to domestic violence-related aggravated assault in connection with the abuse of two of his ex-girlfriends, both of whom were UA students. Bradford was kicked off the UA football team in September 2016, the day the first woman came forward to police.
The two women who reported Bradford to police filed federal lawsuits against the University of Arizona. They said school officials knew Bradford was abusive towards another student, but failed to take appropriate action. The lawsuits say the UA violated their federal Title IX rights to an education free from discrimination in the form of sexual harassment, sexual abuse or dating violence.
In Friday’s ruling in the lawsuit by one of the former girlfriends, U.S. District Judge Susan R. Bolton said she believes the UA knew Bradford abused her but “demonstrated deliberate indifference to it.”
Bolton’s ruling says the question remains if Bradford’s abuse led to her being denied access to educational opportunities and benefits, and if the UA “maintained policies or practices that amounted to an official policy of deliberate indifference.”
“Title IX does not compel an institution to purge its premises of sexual misconduct to avoid liability,” Bolton said in the ruling. “But Title IX does ensure that institutions are held accountable when they fail to adequately address known sex-based harassment over which they exercise substantial control.”
Universities should not be able to maintain “policies or practices that insulate administrators within protective silos,” allowing them to claim ignorance, Bolton said in the ruling.
UA’s lawyers have said the university had limited knowledge of Bradford’s abuse of another student and no knowledge of abuse of the women in the lawsuit. But in May, the UA produced a hand-written note from executive senior associate athletic director Erika Barnes that had been emailed to a Title IX investigator and the dean of students. The note, which Barnes wrote following a meeting with several students in May 2016, detailed Bradford’s abuse of the former girlfriend and another student.
After the discovery of the note, lawyers for the former girlfriend filed a motion for sanctions. Last month, Bolton awarded her $35,003 in fees and court costs, according to court filings.
No trial date has been set.
The second case is waiting on pending motions to determine if a trial date will be set.