Thursday, December 12

Cleaning up last year’s Judicial Board mess


Monday, April 29, 1996

Impeachment process necessary to set things straightBy Tanya
Mahn

Sometimes someone leaves the garbage behind, and even though you
didn’t make the mess you’ve got to clean it up.

Well, last year’s student government council, unfortunately,
left behind some dirty laundry that this year’s council had to
clean up. And no matter how hard you try, when you clean up the
garbage, you end up getting a little dirty.

Here’s what happened. Generally speaking, two "slates" run for
student government offices. One, known last year as Students
First!, is made up of a coalition of mostly organizations of people
of color and students who wanted to see student government work on
real world issues. The other, known as the Bruin Action Team last
year, is mostly made up of members of the greek system. For two
years prior, the "greek slate" had dominated student government,
and nobody thought they were beatable.

Last year was different. Students First! won most of the offices
and found out that the greeks had a hard time letting go of
long-held power in student government.

Here’s where the story gets more complicated. There are certain
rules one must abide by so that elections are fair. An Election
Board is appointed by the council to see to it that everyone plays
by those rules and abides by the election code.

Before the elections, the Bruin Democrats ran a full page ad
pledging their support for the Student’s First! slate. The ad had
been pre-approved by the Election Board, and supposedly everything
was hunky-dory.

But after losing so many offices, the greek-supported slate
filed a complaint that the ad was illegal and violated Election
Board rules. They demanded redress, even though the Election Board
had already said the ad was perfectly legal.

Greek supporters, including last year’s president, Rob
Greenhalgh, decided to try and overrule the Election Board by
complaining to the Judicial Board.

The Judicial Board hypothetically acts as a mini-Supreme Court.
Unless student government overrides them by a three-fourths vote,
the Judicial Board has the final word to interpret bylaws and
procedures when complaints are filed. The Judicial Board also
happened to be "stacked" by friends of Rob Greenhalgh and greek
supporters.

So what happened when Greenhalgh filed a complaint stating that
Student’s First! had violated election rules because of the Bruin
Democrat ad, which was approved by the Elections Board in the first
place? The Judicial Board decided to rule the elections results
invalid, but it upheld the results of one of the few greek
candidates that won, General Representative Cheryl Chang. This
meant all the Student’s First! officers that had been
democratically elected by overwhelming margins would have to run
again.

This abuse of power caused an uproar. Petty politics are one
thing ­ but invalidating and overturning entire elections to
get your candidates in the door? We went from student government
elections to some weird, crazy world where some crackpot dictators
are trying to control and rig elections. Not only was this a most
blatant violation of basic democratic principles, but the
irresponsible actions of the student-run Judicial Board made all
students look bad.

Elections, at this point, seemed almost irrelevant. Members of
the Student’s First! slate filed a temporary restraining order with
the Los Angeles Municipal Court against the Judicial Board to
prevent Greenhalgh’s administration from carrying out their
decisions. The restraining order seemed to snap Rob and Co. out of
their despotic fantasy and back into the real world ­ the
place where elections, even student government elections, cannot be
arbitrarily overturned.

The Judicial Board hastily reconvened, introduced alleged new
evidence and decided it didn’t really want to overturn elections,
after all. Instead, the Judicial Board (probably beginning to
realize the extent of its "fuck-up") decided to let Election Board
deal with it. It now ruled that it was only a campus Judicial
Board, and probably should not be handing out its own election
results.

That, folks, is the garbage that this year’s Student’s First!
officers inherited. Whether they liked it or not, this year’s
council was charged with the responsibility of dealing with a
Judicial Board either horribly corrupt or horribly incompetent.
What to do? What to do?

Student government launched an investigation. Headed up
originally by three Undergraduate Student Association Council
officers, the number dwindled to one, due to time conflicts and
questions of conflicts of interest.

Of course, there were problems. Investigations like these are
rare. And there is no one clear-cut way to do them. So you do them
the best you can, trying as hard as possible to stick to Robert’s
Rules of Order (the bureaucrats handbook).

In the end, the evidence showed two justices had clearly
violated their own processes and procedures. One broke the rules by
promising not to decide a case involving a friend, which he later
did anyway. The other broke the rules by speaking to Rob Greenhalgh
(also the greek candidates manager) during closed deliberations
concerning the overruling of elections, which demonstrated a clear
conflict of interest. The former resigned. The latter was removed
by a vote of 10 council members (including neutral non-Students
First! council members) at a recent meeting.

Well, it seems our Judicial Board might be at it again. They
recently ruled that the impeachment was not binding because the
council meeting started 20 minutes late. And according to their
interpretation, any meeting that starts late cannot be binding
­ even though, throughout the years, councils have started
late. Funny, the chief justice, who supported that decision and was
appointed by Rob Greenhalgh last year, was, himself, appointed
during a meeting that started 35 minutes late. Seem a bit ironic
and hypocritical?

It looks like it might not be quite over. Unfortunately, the
dirt and the corruption lingers on and on, making all students look
bad. Maybe the "J" in Judicial Board really stands for Joke?

Mahn is a fifth-year political science student.

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