Vishal Gupta, the executive vice president, has been “quoted as saying”:http://dailycal.org/sharticle.php?id=21848 that “There should be some kind of provision that does not give the Judicial Council full legislative and judiciary authority. When they are in violation of (the constitution), it puts the association at a huge legal and financial risk.”

There isn’t really any doubt that something is wrong with the Judicial Council, but the implication of this quote seems to be that the council has too much power, and the solution is to take some away, a suggestion the Clog has heard before. This seems to us to head down the wrong track.

The problem with the Judicial Council is not quantity of power but quality. The council has only two ways to enforce election laws: symbolic censures or disqualitifications.

What this means is that every single case that comes before the Judicial Council is all or nothing. Either the candidates receive censures, and nobody cares, or they get disqualified, and (if they win the elections) everyone screams, rightfully, about a subversion of democracy, and it inevitably gets reversed.

In the end, it means that election laws are simply not enforced. The worst thing that happens is that someone violates the election laws, spends lots of money on a lawyer, and eventually gets the ruling reversed.

They still get into office, and often the ASUC reimburses them (at least if they actually win the suits they’ve filed). So we get the exact same outcome except with a lot more drama and a lot more money being taken from the student government.

This summer, the head of the largest party on campus went before the Judicial Council and actually told them that chalk only lasts for one day.

Anyone who has been in Berkeley for even a week knows this is absurd, and someone who works on campaigns regularly should surely have known it was false. His dishonesty showed either a serious (for lack of a better term) brain fart, or an incredible disrespect for the Judicial Council.

But in the end the verdict that actually leveled a punishment for the perjury was reversed—because that punishment was the completely undemocratic disqualification of the winning candidates.

The only tangible change was that the Student Action executives now have a legal bill to pay. Regardless of how you feel about Student Action’s conduct throughout this debacle, it’s impossible to argue that forcing those four people to pay $22,000 is the “just” or “right” way to resolve the initial infraction, the perjury. It’s not regulated, it’s not regular, it’s not objective procedural justice, which is one of the most important qualities of a democracy at any level.

What’s the solution? Our suggestion is to simply allow the council to punish infractions meaningfully, but with less extreme measures.

Are fines so bad? If we’re worried about forcing individuals to pay fines they can’t afford, we can create a sliding scale; candidates could pay a certain fraction of the amount they spent on their campaigns, for example.

Fines may not be attractive, but maybe, just maybe, if there was an actual reason for people to avoid breaking election law, they wouldn’t break it so often. It’s objective and it’s meaningful. And we wouldn’t have to go through this drama every single year.



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