To Mike Mincberg, his disqualification from the student body presidential election was not only unjust, it was undemocratic.
So he and running mate Christi Clements appealed the Election Rules Commission’s decision to the Student Government supreme court.
Mincberg picked up the phone and called his fraternity brother, Tampa lawyer John M. Guard, and Guard accompanied the candidates to the hearing and submitted a brief in their defense.
When that failed, Mincberg called his father.
Mincberg’s father is Elliot Mincberg, a Washington D.C. lawyer that specializes in constitutional and civil rights.
Mincberg and Clements were disqualified from the election last week after they refused to take down their campaign signs, which sported a logo SG said was too similar to its own.
What resulted from Mincberg’s second phone call was another appeal – this time from Dad – to the Board of Trustees. The appeal, in a little more than 2,000 words, calls on the board to overrule SG on several grounds.
Mincberg and Clements were disqualified for breaking state law. But, the appeal says, neither was convicted of any crime. To base a decision on such grounds would be a violation of due process.
The appeal also alleges that the ERC manipulated or changed certain election rules to help bolster its case against the candidates.
“They have been publicly branded as lawbreakers without any finding by a court or agency and without any of the procedural protections they would receive from a court deciding the complex trademark issue,” Elliot Mincberg wrote in the appeal.
If the board does not act in favor of Mincberg and Clements, Elliot Mincberg said he would be forced to sue the university.
“The last thing that Mike and Christi or their parents want is for such a lawsuit to become necessary against USF. But the continuing harm to them due to the misconduct that has occurred here, unless remedied, would leave us little choice,” he wrote.
ERC commissioner Andrew Read did not know an additional appeal with BOT was filed. But as far as he concerned, this is a dead issue.
“From my standpoint, it’s over,” he said. “I don’t really think the Board of Trustees has jurisdiction over SG, but I’m not an expert on this. I don’t know how this works.”
Read said this situation has escalated to a level he didn’t expect. SG should have the power to handle matters within its organization, he said. He understands that other trademark law cases have set legal precedents that some say his decision ignores, but comparing corporate trademark law cases to SG’s case is misleading, he said.
“I’ve researched it, and I still don’t know a great deal about trademark law, but I’ve done enough research to make my own determination that (Mincberg and Clements’ logo) caused confusion,” Read said. “We’re speaking about SG elections, not two major corporations fighting over a billion-dollar brand.”
Read said the notion that his authority be undermined on account of the candidates having never been convicted of a crime is absurd. SG has a schedule to maintain, he said, and that is why, as commissioner of the ERC, he is given the final say.
“We don’t have the resources or the man power to do anything like that,” Read said, referring to the plausibility of pressing charges in a court of law. “We’re four weeks from the election; we don’t have time to go through that process.”
Read also responded to allegations that his decision was politically motivated. Read admitted that he was friends with student body president candidate Brandon Faza. Read said both he and Faza live in the Leadership House and have discussed rooming together next year. Their discussions about living together, however, took place before Faza declared his candidacy, Read said.
“People have to understand, there’s work, and then there’s your personal life,” Read said. “I didn’t (make the decision) to benefit any candidates. I did it because they broke a rule. There’s no political motivation or anything like that.”Mincberg said he doesn’t want to focus on Read’s relationship with one of the candidates. He said he’d rather focus on what he deems a major civil injustice.
“There have been some violations of democracy here, and when it comes to democracy, if you let a little go, you let a lot go,” he said.
Asked how he’d respond to those who might criticize him for consulting his father on the matter, Mincberg said he is simply using the resources he has available to him. To not call his father, he said, would be foolish.
“Everybody is dealt a hand of cards, and you’ve got to play them,” Mincberg said. “That’s just life. Half of success is who you know.”