Thursday, January 15, 2009
Senator John Moghtader has filed a Judicial Council suit against the Senate, arguing that the recall petition was insufficiently specific to meet the Constitutional requirements. Presumably, a victory will prevent the recall election. Attorney General Mike Sinanian says that it was accepted by the Judicial Council, and that he agrees with it, so won't be defending the ASUC Senate. Defending the Senate in Judicial Council suits is consitutionally his job, but the Senate has written By-Laws assigning that job to the Solicitor General, so I assume SG Andrew Hollihan has the job of defending the Senate from the suit.
(As a sidenote, I used to be on an e-mail list for announcing acceptance of charge sheets and the like, but didn't hear anything about this except through other channels. It's entirely possible with the change in Judicial Council chair, there's a new list. I'll see if I can get on it. This assumes, of course, that the charge sheet was actually accepted, rather than just received, and Sinanian has spoken imprecisely before.)
The charge sheet itself begins with a bunch of whining about how the recall is politically motivated, and is an attempt to silence him, and is a smear campaign, and is being investigated by the ADL etc. etc. None of that strikes me as particularly relevant, but maybe the Judicial Council will see things differently.
The actual legal argument is that the petition does not state specific reasons for the removal. He cites an opinion from a South Dakota Attorney General that is on point, but since the Judicial Council isn't even bound by its own precedents, I'm not sure how relevant that opinion is. I'm a bit surprised at that choice, by the way. There are actual judicial cases that have addressed the issue of specificity in recall petitions, so citing an Attorney General's opinion seems a bit underwhelming. (e.g. (PDF))
I'm in substantial agreement that the recall petition was deliberately vague (and those who supported it admitted they kept it vague because of legal concerns), and this vagueness indicates that the recall isn't really about things in the petition, but is rather an expression of a pre-existing desire to get rid of Moghtader. Though the petition asserts that Moghtader's presence in the Senate is inimical to some principles and that his behavior silences and endangers folks, it doesn't actually say anything about what he's done that makes those assertions true. Meanwhile, the actual accusations are occurring through other channels, which means that many voters aren't going to actually see what folks are talking about.
It is nearly impossible for Moghtader to defend himself against an abstract accusation without factual specificity. There's little more he can say than "nuh uh!" The recall election is really just going to be a normal election, where both sides try to marshal voters into supporting them independent of whatever he's supposedly being recalled for, and since the ASUC uses proportional representation, as an independent he may well be fucked. (I don't think Moghtader makes this argument very well in his charge sheet, though)
So as a policy matter I agree, and am perfectly willing to call those who put the recall petition together deceptive, unjust, and even cowardly. I don't agree that this is specifically about his views, but rather the way he presents them, which encourages those who disagree to dislike him and hence take this action, but like I said before, that stuff doesn't strike me as particularly relevant. At the same time, I'm deeply suspicious of the Judicial Council stepping in on this matter, and, given the nature of how the Judicial Council functions, don't believe that they would be correct in ruling in favor of Moghtader, and I'll explain why in the next post.
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