Friday, January 23, 2009
Judicial Council report
The Judicial Council hearing was delayed for two hours because neither side had briefs.
Now that the tone is set, the hearing itself went more or less smoothly. Some highlights:
The defense argument was probably best characterized by John Moghtader, which is that the "signatures justify the reason." Essentially, the Solicitor General argued that by virtue of the fact that the recall petition gathered the necessary signatures, it is specific enough. Since "specific" is a relative term, the Judicial Council has no authority to exercise oversight over what's approved by the student body.
This is largely my view, as well. Because the Constitution does not specify any limits on why a Senator can be recalled, I don't think "specific" can be meant as a legal term binding on the ASUC, but rather should be read as an informational term for the student body, who, when deciding whether or not to sign/vote for the petition, understand that what is written in the petition is the specific reason, and they should not sign/vote for it if they don't agree with the reason given (even if they want to recall him for something else). In practice, this doesn't matter at all, but I don't think the Judicial Council can assert authority to judge whether the reason is specific enough because students tend to be unwilling to avoid trying to manipulate the systems in the Constitution. In any case, how would you prove something like that?
John essentially argued that "specific" was the limit on why a Senator can be recalled. While he pointed out ridiculous examples of recall petitions (such as Senator X should be recalled because his eyes are kind of ugly), he seemed to think they were clearly invalid. I disagree, and can see nothing in the Constitution which suggests that a bullshit reason cannot be used for a recall. The check on whether or not the reason is bullshit comes from the students doing the signing/voting, not from the Judicial Council.
He argued that "specific reason" couldn't be "any reason" because the framers chose to put "specific in the Constitution." But while I agree that it shouldn't be treated as meaningless, there are other meanings, such as the informative one I note above. (The Solicitor General did not make this argument for the defense, though)
John tried to get a piece of evidence admitted. I didn't see it, but it was apparently an e-mail telling folks to sign the petition for more specific reasons (that weren't in the petition). I don't believe any other details were shared out loud, but one Judicial Council member thought that he was trying to admit it for the purpose of "character assassination." Think about what must have been in that e-mail such that simply sharing it was character assassination. (It was eventually suppressed as irrelevant, probably correctly) It reminds me of when Sonya Banerjee asked Dmitri Garcia about whether he knew anything about the Judicial Council or the charges he signed his name to calling for her removal from office, and was accused of character assassination because of how utterly ignorant Garcia's answers were.
Anyway, there may be a decision tonight.
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