Thursday, October 26, 2006
Senate Report: Himelstein
Mark Himelstein, ASUC Attorney, gave a speech. He asked for the session to be closed, but the vote to close failed without the support of the opponents of the original SB51, as well as senators Averbach, Asuncion, and Park. After hearing what he explained, there was no part of it which I could possibly see as being harmful to the Association for it to be disclosed. So whatever.
I want to issue the following correction: Himelstein and Sonya Banerjee both deny that Himelstein advised the Judicial Council to reject my suit against EO#8. I had received this report from various sources, but apparently they were in error. I'm not entirely convinced that these denials are as complete as they should have been, especially considering this fairly damning claim:
Sonya has informed me that she was responding to a question from David Wasserman about Himelstein advising the Judicial Council to reject EO#8. This did not occur. However, she did confirm that Himelstein did ask her to uphold EO#8 and reject charges against it. That is, my original sources were correct. I'm not sure if Himelstein was answering the same question when he was issuing a denial. The question may have been a bit loaded in terms of asking the Judicial Council to deny the constitutional rights of the ASUC's members, though that still ends up as the punchline.
Himelstein told the Judicial Council, after they issued the decision in Ratto v. Vakil, that they were wrong and should reverse the decision. Once he determined that "they wouldn't reverse the decision," he said he had a conflict of interest and could not defend their actions. This is damning because "they wouldn't reverse the decision" in this context means "they wouldn't unilaterally change their ruling without going through the appeals process," since he recused himself before the appeal was heard. Apparently, what he wanted was for the Judicial Council to say "Hey, the ASUC attorney says we were wrong, so I guess our decision doesn't count, and screw the process!"
Oddly, he recused himself because the Judicial Council wouldn't follow his suggestions. However, he said he "strongly suggested a rehearing," and this was granted, so I'm not sure which suggestions they weren't following. If it was the "reverse your ruling without an appeal" suggestion, that's a pretty pathetic suggestion for someone supposedly defending the ASUC.
Himelstein made the claim that the rules require the Judicial Council to talk with an attorney advisor, and by not doing so, they violated their rules, but this doesn't seem to be the case. They are required to have a legal advisor, though this person doesn't seem to be required to be an attorney. Judging from the responsibilities of this advisor, her area of expertise needs to be ASUC rules, rather than state/federal law. I think the Judicial Council needs to publicize who this advisor is, since folks are supposed to be able to appeal to her when their appeals get denied. But there is no reason why the Judicial Council needs to be bound by this advisor (or even be required to consult with her), and it sounds like Himelstein took on the role anyway.
According to Himelstein, they brought in another attorney who met with the Judicial Council and confirmed that there was no way the ruling would be upheld in court. This is odd, though, because I don't know why Himelstein would know this. Was he privy to the conversations between the Judicial Council and their new attorney?
He doesn't like disqualifying candidates. He suggests that instead, parties be punished in future elections, such as being banned from running. While his comparison to the NCAA is interesting, it's also kind of silly. While a university can't suddenly change its name and location and pretend to be a new university which can participate despite an NCAA bowl ban (for instance), ASUC political parties can do that easily.
As far as the agreement to seek fees through the Senate, Oren's lawyers made the suggestion that the ASUC pay their fees, and Himelstein agreed to provide policy (and not legal) advice to the Senate that they should pay fees. This seems quite a bit beyond his role. He did chastise the Senate for picking an amount without seeing an itemized accounting of the costs to see if they were reasonable.
Himelstein opined that without the lawsuit, the Judicial Council wouldn't have reversed itself, but provided nothing to support that. Apparently, he thinks that the Senate should hand out tens of thousands of dollars based on his unsupported opinion.
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