ASUC Judicial Council decides on Student Action appeal, plans for rehearing

Kate Finman/Staff

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After many hours of deliberation and several days of meetings, the ASUC Judicial Council decided unanimously to rehear Student Action’s case regarding the party’s financial misfilings after the council’s earlier decision — which disqualified the entire party — was appealed.

Only four out the nine original justices who voted in the first decision are still on the council after a slew of resignations in April. In its appeal, Student Action alleged that it did not receive a fair trial and that the Elections Council and the Judicial Council held a bias against it.

“I think we had very clear evidence that there was bias in the jury,” said Student Action party chair Josh Wilson during the meeting. “We do not think it is appropriate for the maximum amount of censures to be given.”

The appeal specifically cited several instances in which Student Action felt the proceedings were unfair. The party alleged that Judicial Council clerk Olivia Young violated a gag order preventing her from discussing the case in a conversation overheard at the Oriental BBQ Chicken Town restaurant. Student Action said ASUC President Alex Wilfert heard Young complaining about the timeline of the case with her friends.

Student Action has also alleged that former elections chair Shirin Moti prevented the party from receiving a plea deal — which it felt it should have been offered as standard practice — by explicitly telling former elections prosecutor Jedidiah Tsang to not offer such a deal.

“I also do want to just kind of bring light to the fact that standard practice for violations has been a plea,” Wilson said during the meeting. “We weren’t offered a plea for this violation, even though good intent was acknowledged.”

Current Elections Prosecutor Kyle Ashworth argued that Student Action showed that it understood the process of plea deals, as it had already accepted two plea deals for spam emails earlier in the semester. He said Student Action could have asked Tsang for an offer.

According to Ashworth, there is no “legal argument” for the requirement of a plea deal. He added that there is a precedent but that Tsang was well within his legal rights not to offer one.

“I think that (the Judicial Council) has recognized to some extent that our intent was in no way malicious and has in no way had an impact on the election results,” Wilson said during the meeting. “I do not think that issuing this year’s party maximum censures for a mistake made by an agent that is no longer a part of this party is at all fair.”

The council voted five times on several options for moving forward. In the end, only two passed — the decision to completely rehear the whole case and the decision to attempt to expedite the process.

It has not been announced yet when the hearing will take place, but according to the Judicial Council’s legal adviser, professor Nadesan Permaul, none of the Judicial Council members will be in Berkeley after May 19. If Student Action disagrees with the decision made in the new hearing, it will be able to appeal the decision to Permaul, according to Judicial Council chair Jonathan Fuentes.

“It is important to note that the Elections Council did not pursue these charges in that regard until they were confident that there was a burden of proof,” Ashworth said during the meeting. “We believe that the malicious intent for the Elections Council has not been proven.”

Contact Katherine Finman at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @KateFinman_DC.