Student Judiciary to hold trial for election case
Published: Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 03:10
The third time’s a charm for Dean Kaplan ’15 and his nearly month-long battle against the Student Union. After rejecting Kaplan’s first two appeals against the Student Judiciary and Student Union Secretary Carlton Shakes ’14, respectively, the Student Judiciary has agreed to hear a case regarding the constitutionality of his short-lived tenure in the Union, when Kaplan was sworn in after an errant reading of election results. The public hearing will commence sometime next week; the official date has yet to be determined.
“The constitution does not detail anything about swearing-in, which is why we are granting Dean the case,” wrote Chief Justice Seth Brody ’15 in an email to the Justice.
Citing Article IV, Section 1, which outlines the priorities of justices in their rulings, Brody explained that “the hearing will allow both Dean and the Union to present arguments which will help us make a decision based on relevant precedence first, and then on our good sense.”
Recently-appointed public defender Scott Mishan ’13 will defend the Union in this case. Kaplan, the plaintiff, said that he plans to represent himself.
Kaplan asserted in his first written appeal to the SJ that he “[intends] on filing as many charges as necessary to accomplish [his] goals.” The ideal outcome, said Kaplan, would be for him to be reinstated as “an active member of the Senate.”
“This is interesting to me and I’m having fun, and I’m really not trying to knock anyone down,” said Kaplan. “I agree; it is extreme. I’m an extreme person.”
However, “I’m going to be very, very picky about [the Judiciary’s written report],” he said. “If the Judiciary really wants to see this go away, they can spend hours on this report, and fill every hole that they need to. Otherwise, this semester’s going to be a nightmare.”
Details of the case
After the first round of elections were completed on Sept. 20, the off-campus senator results were Kaplan with 20 votes, Sunny Aidasani ’14 with 17 votes and the “abstain” option with 23 votes.
As per the constitution, abstain is listed as an option in all Union elections. If abstain ties a student candidate, then the student is declared the winner. However, if abstain “wins” the election, the article says that the position will remain vacant until the next election, unless that office is president, in which case another election should be held five days later.
Since abstain received a greater number of votes than Kaplan or any other candidate, abstain should have been declared the victor.
However, Shakes announced Kaplan as the winner, and Student Union President Todd Kirkland ’13 swore him in at that Sunday’s Senate meeting.
Shakes sent an email to the student body the following night apologizing for the mistake and announcing that there would be a revote later in the week, coinciding with the East Quad senator elections.
“It was a no-brainer; I had no choice but to have a revote,” said Shakes in an interview with the Justice. “If abstain wins, abstain wins.”
The Judiciary unanimously upheld the constitutionality of the off-campus senator revote.
“Carlton … was within his rights to schedule the re-vote,” Brody wrote in an email to the Justice.
In the revote, Aidasani came out on top. Abstain came in second, Haotian Shen ’15 was third, and Kaplan finished last.
Article IX, Section 7 of the constitution states that the Chief of Elections (Shakes) has the power to resolve any election disputes. The Chief’s decision can be appealed to the Judiciary. Kaplan took full advantage of this option.
Putting a plan into action
Last Wednesday, Kaplan made the first of 57 planned formal appeals (encompassing all elected and appointed Union officials) to the Judiciary.
In his email to court clerk Paige Moscow ’14, he wrote that “I am officially charging the entire Brandeis Student Union Judiciary with wrongfully suspending Dean Kaplan’s position of Off-Campus Senate Representative, and request they be removed from office.”
“I thought it was kind of funny,” said Kaplan in an interview with the Justice. Should the trial have been approved for a hearing, an entirely new panel of justices would have had to be selected due to a conflict of interest.
No justice granted certiorari on the appeal, meaning that they did not agree to hear the case.
Brody reminded Kaplan that, “The case you are bringing is an impeachment trial, which cannot be held without 15 percent of the signed constituency or two thirds of the senate agreeing to it.”
“Although you have been acting senator, you are in fact not off-campus senator, therefore you have not been suspended from an elected position, as you were never the elected senator,” Brody continued, meaning that since Kaplan was not legitimately elected, his swearing-in and the period during which he acted as off-campus senator were also not legitimate.
While Kaplan did not expect his first charge to be approved, he said he still “definitely benefited from getting that rejection,” as he plans to use the impeachment bylaw in arguments at his upcoming hearing.
He backed off from the first charge and moved on to charging Shakes with “overstepping his boundaries as Chief of Elections, by attempting to resolve a dispute” when a dispute was not officially issued. The Justice’s investigation of the election, he argued, was the only challenge to the results and did not constitute a dispute. He also filed an official challenge to the decision to hold a revote for the position.
Once again, no justice issued certiorari.
However, today, the Judiciary agreed to hear a case for Kaplan’s third appeal, which claims that he “was sworn in as Off-Campus Senator constitutionally, and thus was a full senator at the time in which his seat was suspended.”
Kaplan said he will use witnesses from the Senate, who will support his definition of when a student becomes a senator. By his estimate, this occurs when the senator is sworn into office.
Implications for the Union
Aidasani was not sworn in at the Senate meeting on Oct. 9 because the Senate chose not to do so until the justices had decided whether or not they would hear Kaplan’s case, according to Kirkland. However, Aidasani did vote at the meeting. He was eventually sworn in at the most recent senate meeting on Sunday.
“Being sworn in does not have any pull over being able to vote or not, it’s more ceremonious than anything else,” said Kirkland in an interview with the Justice. “But since there was nothing preventing him from voting, they allowed him to vote as well.”
While Kirkland seemed to have a strict interpretation of the constitution and the role of an oath of office, Shakes saw it as open-ended. “The constitution is pretty vague, and the Student Union [is] having an issue with that,” admitted Shakes, “so it’s imperative that the judiciary have a more active role.”
“I completely understand that [Kaplan] wants to be part of the Student Union,” said Shakes. “Unfortunately, he wasn’t elected. … We have to follow the rules.”
Aidasani, the remaining justices and Mishan could not be reached for comment by press time.
—Sam Mintz contributed reporting