SUPREME COURT OF THE STUDENT BODY
In re: J. Clayton Brett v. The Pants Party
Heard and Decided March 20, 2007
Opinion Published March 20, 2007
JUSTICES: GAVRICH, C.J., KLEIN J., VIALPANDO, J. concur
The Supreme Court of the Student Body [the “Court”] here reviews the Election Commission’s formal recommendation to disqualify. We have jurisdiction per § 728.2(d) of the Student Body Statutes.
1. Procedural History
On February 28, 2007, the Elections Commission [the “Commission”] heard arguments in the case of John Clayton Brett v. The Pants Party, Case No. 2007-S-0007. The Commission made three findings: (1) The Commission denied the Pants Party’s motion to defer the hearing. (2) The Commission held that the Chair of the Commission has the authority to issue a cease and desist order. (3) The Commission held that the Pants Party’s distribution of “I Voted” stickers violated § 761.21 of the Student Body Statutes. After making its findings, the Commission formally recommended to the Court that the Pants Party be disqualified from the Spring 2007 Student Government elections in accordance with § 723.2(d).
On March 6, 2007, the Pants Party appealed the Commission’s finding that the distribution of “I Voted” stickers violated § 761.21. On March 8, 2007, the Court heard the Pants Party’s appeal and affirmed. On March 20, 2007, the Court held a hearing to review the Commission’s formal recommendation to disqualify. Because the Pants Party violated the cease and desist order properly issued by the Chair of the Commission in accordance with § 723.4 of the Student Body Statutes, the Court hereby declares the Pants Party formally disqualified from the Spring 2007 Student Government elections.
The purpose of today’s hearing was to determine whether or not to disqualify the Pants Party or its candidates for violations of the Commission’s cease and desist order. In making today’s decision, the Court considered evidence presented at the Commission’s hearing on March 1, as well as testimony given today by representatives of the Pants Party and the Gator Party. After considering the evidence of record, the Court agrees that disqualification of the Pants Party is the appropriate penalty in this case.
According to § 723.4 of the Student Body Statutes, the Chair of the Commission may grant a preliminary order that a political party or candidate cease and desist from the distribution of campaign material where the Chair of the Commission deems that a preponderance of evidence leads to a conclusion that there is a strong likelihood of a violation of the Student Body Statutes. In order to maintain order during the electoral process and prevent chaos, the authority of the Commission must be respected by the political parties and candidates that choose to participate in the elections. In this case, Pants Party leadership deliberately violated the Commission’s cease and desist order. In doing so, Pants Party leadership undermined the authority of the Elections Commission and the integrity of the electoral process. Due to the severity of the violation, this Court agrees that disqualification of the party is the appropriate sanction.
At the disqualification hearing, Pants Party representative, David Meyrowitz, testified that, in his opinion, disqualification of the party was too severe a sanction. Instead, he suggested that a fine or disqualification of Pants Party leadership would be more appropriate. We disagree. Although fines are appropriate for minor violations of the Student Government Election Code, the Court does not believe that a fine would sufficiently penalize the Pants Party in this case. Moreover, the Court does not believe that a fine would deter violations of cease and desist orders in the future.
The Court believes that Mr. Meyrowitz’s second suggested penalty to disqualify only Pants Party leadership would also be insufficient. The Court believes that such a decision would not deter future party leaders from committing violations. In other words, if only party leadership was disqualified for violations of the Commission’s cease and desist orders, party leaders could deliberately violate the laws, while their candidates win and take office. The Court is not willing to leave that loophole open.
In conclusion, parties and candidates are not free to disregard the authority of the Commission or the laws provided in the Student Government Election Code, including the law regarding cease and desist orders as in this case. The Court is concerned that any punishment other than disqualification of the Pants Party may render the Commission’s cease and desist power obsolete and may result in future violations. Therefore, because the Pants Party violated the cease and desist order properly issued by the Chair of the Commission in accordance with § 723.4 of the Student Body Statutes, the Court hereby declares the Pants Party formally disqualified from the Spring 2007 Student Government elections. Note, however, that it is not the Court’s intention to disqualify the individual candidates or members of the Pants Party from participating in any future Student Government elections.
Lastly, the Court recognizes that, due to our decision today, one graduate student Senate seat will be vacant after the certification of the Spring 2007 election results. This seat will be considered vacant and must be filled after validation of the election results by the normal procedure of the Student Senate Replacement and Agenda Committee. That said, the Court notes that any and all former Pants Party candidates disqualified by the Court’s decision today are eligible to fill the open seat. In this case, Alan Passman was the only Pants Party candidate to win his seat. There is nothing in the Student Body statutes that would prevent Mr. Passman from filling the vacant seat. Thus, if he chooses to apply, the Court recommends that the Student Senate Replacement and Agenda Committee consider Mr. Passman to fill the vacant seat.
CAMPBELL, J. dissents:
Today this Court decided to prevent Mr. Alan Passman from taking his seat in the Student Senate. Mr. Passman was elected by majority vote via a democratic process. After Mr. Passman learned of the Election Commission’s cease and desist order, he followed the “law” and obeyed the order without question. His maturity should be commended, not punished. There is nothing even remotely Constitutional or fair about the Court’s decision.
Let us be realistic here. Mr. Passman, not the Pants Party, is being punished. The Pants Party no longer exists. According to the testimony I heard at today’s “sentencing” hearing, their leaders are soon to graduate and none were elected to office. Mr. Passman is being punished merely because he “associated” with the wrong crowd. He is truly “guilty by association.”
Apparently this Court wants to set precedent and send a message saying, “thou shall not violate a cease and desist order.” In reality, the message we are sending is: “You may as well violate a cease and desist order because you’re going to be punished regardless.” I am not saying that we cannot disqualify someone from taking seat; I am saying that this is not the time to do it.
Legal rhetoric aside, what bothers me the most is the fact that this decision could actually harm Mr. Passman in the “real world.” A seat in the university’s Student Senate is a good bullet on a resume. It demonstrates civic involvement and leadership potential. It could make the difference between being hired or not. By “sending a message” to the Pants Party, we are actually taking a line off his resume. A line, I add, that he earned. He campaigned for office and won his seat. As soon as he found out the “I Voted” stickers were contraband he stopped disseminating them. He should be allowed to take his seat, represent those who voted for him and tell potential employers that he was a member of the University of Florida Student Senate.
I am truly disappointed with the majority of this Court.
GATOR WINS -- EVERYTHING!
You won the whole god damn senate slate, you won the executive, why the fuck did you have to file that complaint and rob the GDI's of their single victory? Tonight I'm sure there will be toasts and laughter, cigar smoke and green bottles all over the place, inebriated statesmen will get all gushy over their full sweep. R&A members will pick another Gator/Swamp/Innovate/Ignite SYSTEM TOOL to replace Senator Passman...perhaps Pedro Morales will be all over the phones like last time (when he was pushing for Weiqi to be put on the slate) with a new person to help out of the kindness of his noble heart. Independents don't tell System Parties who to put on their slate? I wonder about people...
"We didn't make deals"....yeah and FBK didn't slander Grapski.