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Recall trial begins with claims of judicial bias

Dozens of students watched the first night of the Student Government Supreme Court trial regarding the possible recall of the student body presidential elections go into early Friday morning.

If the Court recalls the election, it would be as if the recent election cycle never occurred. All candidates would have to reapply to run, and all campaigning would start over.

Former SG senator Jennifer Wilson requested the trial, asking the Court to rule the recent student body elections null and void based on allegations the Election Rules Commission showed bias toward presidential candidate Frank Harrison and his running mate Faran Abbasi. Wilson also claimed that the ERC violated SG statutes throughout the election.

At the beginning of the trial, Co-Counsel for the ERC, former SG senator Jeremiah Pederson, requested the removal of two Court justices – Chief Justice Kristina Lawrence and Ranking Justice Misbahuddin Syed -due to possible bias.

Both justices remained on the Court, saying that the claims of their personal relationships possibly hindering their judgment were groundless.

The trial then began shortly thereafter at about 10:45 p.m. It was originally scheduled for 9:30 p.m.

Wilson opened by touching on a variety of instances in which she said the ERC should have assessed points for campaign violations and did not.

Pederson opened by saying there was no way to prove that ERC was biased for many reasons, including that there were not enough grievances filed against the other student body presidential tickets for a fair comparison.

At press time, Wilson had brought her first witness forward, junior Brittany Link. Link, who ran unsuccessfully for student body vice president last year, kept a close eye on this year’s election and filed multiple grievances against a variety of tickets.

Harrison and Abbasi won the student body presidency and vice presidency, respectively, Wednesday night.

The ERC governs all aspects of the elections, including assessing points to candidates for violating campaign rules.

Pederson submitted documentation of what he claimed was improper correspondence between Lawrence and Wilson prior to the trial. Pederson also alleged that Lawrence and Wilson, who are both participating in Tallahassee internships, rode from Tallahassee to USF together. He said that the more than four hours in the car together could lead to possible bias.

Pederson told the Court that SG Director David Armstrong called Lawrence to ask her if she was making the trip with Wilson, and Armstrong told him Lawrence declined to answer his question.

She did not deny Pederson’s claims during the trial but instead asked Pederson why traveling together would be an issue.

He responded by saying that improper conversations regarding the trial could have easily occurred.

Pederson also submitted documents stating that Lawrence had prior relations with Harrison, which he said could affect her judgment.

Pederson also alleged that Syed had improper conversations with SG senator Umer Ahmed regarding the trial. Pederson said Syed’s judgment might be biased because he has been close friends with former vice presidential candidate Aadil Modi for several years.