Judicial Council questions ASUC president, proponents of V.O.I.C.E. Initiative

Edwin Cho/Staff
VOICE Judicial Hearing in 20 Barrows on April 18, 2012, Judicial Council, L to R, Ryan Mattison, Scott Lara, Suneeta Israni, Erica Furer (Chair), Hinh Tran, Stephanie Chamberlain interviewed V.O.I.C.E. campaign manager Lynn Yu (far right.)

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The ASUC Judicial Council considered arguments and witness testimony surrounding the validity of ASUC President Vishalli Loomba’s executive order invalidating the V.O.I.C.E. Initiative from the 2012 general election ballot at a hearing Wednesday night.

Over the course of the six-hour hearing, the council heard arguments and extensively questioned the legitimacy of both Loomba’s order and the initiative itself, as well as other possible actions Loomba could have pursued.

The council will deliberate and publish a ruling sometime in the future.

Loomba’s order, issued April 11, voided the initiative that asked students to pay $2 per semester to support The Daily Californian. Wednesday’s hearing came as the result of charges filed on behalf of V.O.I.C.E. campaign manager Lynn Yu, who claimed that Loomba’s order was not within the authority granted to her by the ASUC Constitution.

The council questioned Loomba on whether her actions were in accordance with the constitution, which allows executive orders to be issued in cases that are “urgent and necessary to maintain the functioning of the ASUC” until the ASUC Senate can meet again. Loomba issued the order just as the second of three voting days in the election began, and the senate upheld the order at its meeting that night.

“The functionality of ASUC was threatened,” Loomba said. “Students had already voted on an invalid initiative.”

But former Attorney General Kevin Gibson and current Solicitor General Erin Delaney — who represented Yu in the hearing — refuted Loomba’s claims that the situation was urgent and therefore warranted an executive order. Gibson said the order was outside the scope of Loomba’s powers.

The council also questioned when the Daily Cal should have produced a memorandum of understanding to allow it to receive funds. Loomba said that having this agreement beforehand and making students aware of it was vital to the election and that the initiative violated UC policy disallowing for student fee funds to go toward nonuniversity organizations.

Yet Yu said she heard from campus officials that the initiative did not need a memorandum in advance of the election and that she was never told she was violating UC policy, but said she believed the Daily Cal as a registered student group would not violate the policy.

Loomba said the spark for her actions — but not the only reason that led to the executive order — was an April 10 email from Dean of Students Jonathan Poullard in which Poullard told Loomba and others to “expect challenges” if the initiative was passed due to letters of grievances filed with the campus whistleblower program.

However, SQUELCH! Senator and chair of the senate Committee on Constitutional and Procedural Review Noah Ickowitz, said during his witness testimony that the president had multiple options to inform students of concerns with the initiative, such as sending a campuswide email or issuing a preliminary injunction on the results — similar to the injunction filed against results of the Class Pass referendum.

Loomba also said the ASUC was in danger of legal action as a result of the intiative on the ballot.

In response, Delaney said in her closing argument that it was “hard to believe that one lawsuit would have brought the ASUC to a halt.”

The results of the V.O.I.C.E. Initiative were not revealed at Thursday night’s ASUC tabulation event.

Chloe Hunt is the lead student government reporter.