Trial and error
Student Government’s procedures to determine a student body president took another change of course Tuesday.
SG Supreme Court chief justice Dustin Sachs called a mistrial in the case to determine the validity of the candidates’ disqualifications. Sachs cited in a letter delivered to candidates that “there exists some bias on the court,” causing a justice to be recused.
The procedure for determining a winner will now be based on the election results.
Both presidential candidates, Mike Berman and Omar Khan, were each disqualified after Thursday’s runoff for an immediate 10-point violation. The Khan/Morris ticket was disqualified for allegedly campaigning during a scheduled class. The Berman/Bostick ticket was disqualified because a campaign worker allegedly e-mailed an abusive letter to the Khan ticket.
The purpose of Monday’s SG Supreme Court hearing was to determine if either of the disqualifications were valid.
Before serving on the case, Sachs said justices who felt they were biased were advised to abstain from the proceedings.
While justices on the SG Supreme Court met Tuesday afternoon to determine validity of the disqualifications, Sachs said new information surfaced and one justice decided to remove herself from the case.
Sachs failed to give the justice’s name, saying she wished to remain anonymous.
Sachs also declined to comment on the new information that was revealed before the court.
Sachs added that voting results could not be released until the election is “officially certified.”
According to rule 701.4 in the Election Rules Committee, certification becomes official “when the ERC determines it to be official.”
Sachs said because the ERC director was not expecting to certify the election within 12 to 48 hours from the court hearing, certification will not be granted until at least tonight.
Yolanda Best, director of the ERC, said she was unsure whether the results would be released today or Thursday.
Best said if the results are not released by noon today, she would most likely announce them Thursday.
Aneesh Karve, who represented candidate Omar Khan in Monday’s SG court hearing, said he was upset to hear that the justice did not remove herself earlier since he asked the court to do so if they felt the need before defending his clients.
“Given the opportunity up front … it was a waste of time for my clients and council to not recuse herself ahead of time,” Karve said. “On the account of information brought to light, the justice was hiding something from the rest of the court.”
Khan’s running mate, Ryan Morris, said he was disappointed that the court would be unable to decide because he feels the charges would have been dropped.
“We did wonder why none of the judges recused themselves last night,” Morris said. “But I think they made the right decision if they felt they would have been biased. I had been very impressed so far on the actions of the court. Some rules need to be reformed, but I do believe we would have received a fair trial.”
Berman did not return messages seeking comment.
Sachs said a trial is unable to continue because appointing a new justice to the case would not give the candidates a fair trial.
“Due to the way Student Government is set up, justices have to be confirmed (to the court), which takes two weeks,” Sachs said.
In addition, Sachs cited in the letter that the SG court is applying the precedent in Bush v. Gore (2000) to the SG cases.
“That gives the court power to deny hearing any more cases and order the vote count to be made the final decision instead of the court,” Sachs said.
Karve said, however, he doesn’t see how it is feasible to apply Bush v. Gore because legal scholars have considered it a bad legal decision and it is not representative of the law.
Sachs said SG wanted to return the election decision to the voters’ results, as it was in the 2000 presidential election.
“It will be the will of the students who determine the president,” Sachs said.
Sachs added that he and Student Government will be reviewing the rules and making changes throughout the course of the year.
However, Sachs said he’s not sure how many changes will be made to the rules.
“At this point, it’s too early to say,” Sachs said. “We will look at all of the problems and determine what needs to be changed or not, or fully scrapped from the beginning.”