On Saturday, the ASUC Judicial Council held a meeting to hear two cases brought against ASUC Senator and presidential candidate Chaka Tellem and the Elevate Cal coalition he is running with.
The cases brought against Tellem and Elevate Cal were first heard at a Judicial Council meeting last week. During Saturday’s hearings, the council discussed cases relating to an alleged violation of campaigning on campus property and inappropriate usage of ASUC resources. The council also voted on pending petitions.
While the petitions for the cases were first filed March 19, ASUC Elections Prosecutor Joshua Kay, along with Tellem and Elevate Cal’s co-attorneys Catherine Bauer and Maxim Miller, said they only had four days to prepare.
“Considering the limited time frame and overwhelming nature of the cases Nathan Mizell brought forward, we ask for leniency here,” Bauer said at the hearing. “We have acted entirely in good faith. We are willing and excited to work with the Judicial Council.”
Mizell, director of policy to the ASUC president, originally filed all seven petitions against Tellem and Elevate Cal.
First case: Campaigning on UC Berkeley residential housing grounds
Regarding the first case, Kay said Tellem and Elevate Cal were in violation of ASUC bylaw 4203, section 3.11, which prohibits campaigning on or within the grounds of campus-operated residential housing.
The video in question featured Tellem outlining his presidential platforms, and the violation concerns the portion of the video where Tellem is standing with the Maximino Martinez Commons in the background.
Kay noted that if the Judicial Council chose to not charge Tellem and Elevate Cal in this case, it would “set a dangerous precedent” and might lead to other candidates filming videos in areas that may imply an endorsement.
Bauer said Tellem was 20 feet away from the building on the sidewalk, which is public property, and therefore, Tellem was not in violation of the bylaw.
Additionally, Bauer argued that releasing the video was an act of campaigning, which was done from Tellem’s residence hall room, but the filming of the video was a preemptive measure that does not qualify as campaigning.
Tellem added that he did not talk to any students about his campaign or the elections while filming that part of the video.
“We were merely walking by because I live in Berkeley, and because I’m not able to record any videos inside in any buildings, we wanted to record it outside,” Tellem said at the hearing.
In a unanimous decision, Tellem and Elevate Cal were found not guilty of this charge.
Second case: ASUC resources for campaigning purposes
The second case detailed that on Elevate Cal’s website, Tellem’s ASUC email was listed under his profile.
Elevate Cal was charged with violating ASUC bylaw 4203, section 3.5, and Operational Policy Communications 001, which refer to using ASUC resources for campaigning and ASUC emails for personal purposes.
Kay argued that Tellem’s ASUC email is an ASUC resource and that it was irrelevant whether or not the email was actually used for campaigning purposes because having it displayed on the website was enough to potentially sway voters and imply an endorsement from the ASUC.
Miller, however, said electronic communication should not be considered a resource, as it is an “open, public medium.” According to Miller, the original bylaw primarily pertains to physical spaces and resources.
Several justices questioned Miller on his interpretation.
“I personally see that as an extremely limited interpretation of that bylaw, specifically because it says that resources are not limited to these physical things that are given as nonconstraining examples in that bylaw,” Associate Justice Jacob Dadmun said at the hearing.
According to Tellem, his email being included on the ElevateCal website was a clerical error, adding that the email was changed to his campus email as soon as the coalition was notified of the violation.
Tellem added that he never used his ASUC email for campaign purposes and was never contacted through the email regarding his campaign.
Kay said according to ASUC bylaw 4203, section 1.4, the punishment for an “attempt” to commit a violation and actually committing the violation are the same.
In a near unanimous decision, with one abstention due to absence, Elevate Cal was found guilty of this charge, and all candidates associated with the coalition were given one censure.
Decisions on pending petitions, expedited hearing to take place
After both cases were heard, the Judicial Council moved to vote on five pending petitions: four against Tellem or Elevate Cal and one against ASUC Senate candidate Jake Sim, who was recently dropped from Elevate Cal.
Mizell said there are stringent rules regarding parties and endorsements, and voters could be misled or confused about Elevate Cal’s status as a coalition.
The Judicial Council rejected the four cases against Tellem or Elevate Cal and accepted the case against Sim, which will take place at an expedited hearing Thursday.
Chris Jin, ASUC Judicial Council chair, explained that most of the cases were rejected after the council determined that Elevate Cal is a de facto party.
In response to the various cases, Tellem said they have been stressful, and he agrees with the Council’s decision to issue one censure. As a result, Tellem said, he and everyone associated with Elevate Cal are being very mindful to prevent any actions that could “be interpreted as breaking bylaws.”
“Seven of the eight claims against me and Elevate Cal were rejected,” Tellem said. “It shows that there’s trust in the Judicial Council, and we acted in good faith.”