With a week and a half until finals week, students are used to knowing who the next student body president will be. However, this year that position is still in limbo.
Ryan Soscia and Logan Holland are student body president- and vice president-elect currently. However, Moneer Kheireddine and Shaquille Kent won the popular vote of the students but were disqualified last week after the Student Government Supreme Court found the ticket in violation of a major grievance. Dika Ezevillo, one of their campaign staff members, was seen campaigning while wearing his nametag from his position at Career Services, which the court deemed was abuse of his position.
Kheireddine and Kent filed a letter of appeal with the dean of students Danielle McDonald with four main points, a rebuttal to which has been filed by Holland.
Bias of Chief Justice Milton Llinas
Kheireddine argues that the Supreme Court Chief Justice Milton Llinas presiding over the case was “unethical and a conflict of interest” because Llinas of his relationship to Soscia and Holland’s representative. Llinas and Alec Waid, Student Body Vice President who represented for Soscia and Holland, are roommates, which Kheireddine claims is reason Llinas should have recused himself from the trial.
Additionally, Kheireddine claims Waid “abused his power as a member of the executive branch” by taking on the representative role to begin with and was “overstepping the boundaries of his position so that he could use his reputation to influence the decision of the court.”
In response, Holland argues that Llinas had no expectation to recuse himself by Florida law and that it remains a personal decision for a justice to be involved in hearing a case. He also states there have been times when Llanis has ruled against Waid in the past.
Holland also wrote that it was within the ticket’s right to ask Waid to represent it. Waid is a former justice and therefore is “experienced in trial proceedings and familiar with SG governing documents” and Holland wrote that if Kheireddine saw issue with the representation as Waid is a paid employee, then he should have gone “though the proper SG channels.”
Statutes should be void for vagueness
In this portion of the appeal, Kheireddine argues the statute in question should be declared invalid “because it is not sufficiently clear.” He wrote that the court’s definition of abuse could not have been concluded by the average student when reading the statute. He pointed out that courts usually determine that vague laws deprive students of their fair process.
Holland responded that the argument does not meet the qualifications for appeal to the dean of students because it does not pertain to “procedures that were carried out that treated the affected party unfairly.” He also stated that for the dean to make a decision besides upholding or overturning the court’s decision would be outside of governing documents and infringe on the Supreme Court’s duty to interpret statutes.
Evidence of witness tampering
Kheireddine accuses Soscia and Holland of paying witnesses to lie in court about seeing Ezevillo using his position as part of Career Services to pressure students into voting. Former senator Chris Johnson provided a statement saying Soscia and Holland approached him with a bribe to testify on their behalf. Kheireddine argues that if one person was approached, it’s a reasonable assumption that others were as well.
“The final straw … was when Ryan offered to pay me a bribe in exchange for missing a day of work to offer altered testimony at their appeals trial,” Johnson wrote. “The impact of the testimony would have been marginal, but they found that I spoke to Moneer the day after their offer was made and decided to change their case on the day of the trial.”
Holland’s rebuttal dismissed Johnson’s claims as “absurd” and states that he and Soscia decided Johnson’s testimony would not be relevant and therefore did not call him to the stand.
He argued that, of the four witnesses they called whose testimony was considered and who’s testimony wasn’t based on their employment, not one offered “unique” testimony. Meaning, all four’s testimony worked to support another’s testimony.
Substantive law error
Kheireddine argues that the court’s definition of “abuse” describes the minor violation of “Using Activity and Service funded material to further (a) campaign.” As such, he states that the alleged conduct “does not amount to a major violation.”
Additionally, Kheireddine argues that major violations are reserved for “morally reprehensible conduct” such as bribery, coercing students to vote and threats of violence. However, the minor violations are to “regulate unfair campaign conduct” such as early campaigning, chalking in unauthorized locations and using A&S funds for campaign materials. He argues that what Ezevillo did “cannot be described as morally reprehensible” and therefore wouldn’t meet the qualifications of a major grievance.
Holland response that substantive law errors are not grounds for an appeal and that considering a legal argument “in regards to the holding of the court in an appeal would deem any previous court holding as obsolete.” He wrote that it is not Kheireddine’s place to argue what he should have been investigated for and that the grievance was reviewed by the proper authorities.
He additionally dismissed Kheireddine’s claim that major violations relate to “morally reprehensible conduct” by stating that it is not the job of the court or the dean to “decide that they simply do not like how statutes are written, rather interpret and apply statutes in a fair and accurate manner.”
McDonald said she is not seeing the evidence until it is all submitted. She is expected to make a decision Friday afternoon regarding the appeal with inauguration currently scheduled for an hour later that same day.