The ASUCR Judicial Council met for the second time this spring quarter on Wednesday, April 12 in the senate chambers, with the meeting beginning at 9:18 a.m.
Chief Justice Jo Gbujama began the meeting with the continuation of the case brought to the court by former ASUCR Interim President Arturo Gomez who alleged that several senators were complicit in a letter that was sent to Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs James Sandoval rejecting the Judicial Council opinion to disband the [YOUR]Side political party for unfair political practices, effectively making it a senate resolution without going through proper procedure. This is a continuation of the previous week’s meeting where a hearing was held on the finance committee’s vote to allocate $2,000 to hire a lawyer for an independent review of that same opinion.
Vice Chief Justice Hayden Jackson reread the letter to the court which recounted a select group of senators’ view that the Judicial Council had failed “to follow the due process of the Judicial Rules of Procedure, and the undermining of the systems of separations of powers and checks and balances between the 3 branches.” The letter was originally signed by President Pro Tempore Johnathan Li as well as 11 of the 15 ASUCR senators — Annette Jimenez, Jonathan Javier, Arneil Liban, Valerie Nunez, Nicole Kato, Jose Cortez- Hernandez, Semi Cole, Shaun Nzeribe, Ariel Chen, Carisha Moore and Connie Fan.
Cole first pleaded guilty to the charges but then changed his plea to not guilty after discovering he could speak to his defense during public comment.
Gomez then came to the stand to briefly explain why Cole was “unambiguously guilty.” Gomez explained that this was a clear-cut case because they broke rules delineated in the constitution by signing this letter which “(spoke) for two branches, without any executive approval.”
Cole then gave his opening statement in his defense. Cole explained that he did not personally write the letter, instead receiving it from Cortez-Hernandez on a flashdrive as well as a physical copy to sign, but felt “compelled by the situation with which the letter was composed to the constitutional breaches it was trying to remedy.” Cole blamed the situation on “personal biases and ill feelings” interfering with proper conduction of the rules of procedure. Cole also explained that the letter was misconstrued because of “numerous grammatical errors.”
Closing statements followed with Gomez suggesting that if the document was worded so poorly, perhaps one should not have signed it. He continued reminding the court that Cole was the one who sent the letter to the campus administration and that there is not a constitutional bylaw or provision that upholds this letter.
Cole, in his final statement, argued that the letter was “baseless, and I feel like the ignorance in which that letter was sent is clear, people didn’t fully understand the capabilities of the senators and the capabilities of how things work in that nature,” furthering his defense by saying the aforementioned senators wanted their voices to be heard as well as the fact that he dropped his signature from the document. Cole acknowledged that he was “ignorant to a lot of things” but asked that the court understand the situation holistically.
The judicial council opinion regarding this case was not yet available at time of print.
Judicial council meetings take place on Tuesdays at 12 p.m. in the senate chambers and are open to the public.