ASUCR President Shafi Karim defends himself in a Judicial Council hearing on April 27 after being accused of abuse of power.

The ASUCR Judicial Council met for the third time since the beginning of spring quarter on Thursday, April 27 in the senate chambers, with the meeting beginning at 5:14 p.m.

The meeting began with the justices debating allocating $4,950 of student fees toward giving associate justices a stipend. Currently, Chief Justice Jo Gbujama is the only one on the court who is paid a stipend, of $1,485, which is distributed over the nine months of the school year. Associate Justice Casey Theilhart explained he did not feel associate justices did enough to deserve a stipend and a made a motion to drop the money, seconded by Associate Justice Matthew Whiles. The motion to drop the bill passed with a vote of 2-0-2.

Following a two-minute recess, the court heard Kuo v. Karim, a case between Elections Director Marcy Kuo against ASUCR President Shafi Karim. Karim was accused of “exuding disruptive and chaotic behavior that is toxic to the well-being of the 2017 elections” as well as non-compliance with the judicial order to disband parties in the 2017 elections, per the case filing. The list of charges went on to include accusations of Karim abusing power by trying to issue an executive order on Monday, April 3 that would delay elections to weeks three, four and five of spring quarter, as well as using a “threatening and coercive tone to demand staff to carry out unwanted actions and orders.”

It was determined by the justices that Karim, who pleaded not guilty, violated Chapter 23 of the ASUCR bylaws, indicating an ethical breach of Karim’s role as president. Karim then argued with the justices over double jeopardy, saying that he had already been punished by the council for his executive order. Thielhart explained that there is nothing in the ASUCR constitution about double jeopardy and that as a 501(c)(3) private organization, they are not subject to U.S. federal law, instead getting their authority from the Regents of the University of California, not the U.S. government.

Karim then tried to stonewall the hearing by arguing that, due to being sent a late notice, he was not prepared and therefore had no defense ready. Gbujama explained that they sent Karim several notices and that it was his job to gather a defense. Gbujama also said they would not be postponing the meeting for a third time because of Karim’s lack of preparedness.

Kuo then gave her opening statement saying that she “didn’t feel comfortable being in the office especially during elections season” and that she felt targeted by Karim. Karim countered saying it was within his right as president to issue an executive order and that Kuo would not attend meetings he scheduled, accusing her of giving him a fake schedule of classes and times when she could not meet.

With no witnesses, they moved to closing arguments where Kuo argued that Karim did not address any of the charges and that, in regards to the meetings, he did not attend them either. Kuo said that regardless of position, “if you are exuding this type of behavior that is threatening … to particularly me who felt especially targeted, as a woman, to be talked to in a very condescending manner,” she did not feel that was fair for her.

Karim countered in his closing statement saying that the student body trusts him which is why he was elected and that he feels there were procedural errors regarding elections and needed her to be at executive cabinet meetings.

The council then moved into handling elections violations cases. The elections committee convened on Monday, April 24 to discuss violations, providing its ruling to the council in order to consider the appropriate allocation of strikes to candidates. If the council finds the elections committee’s ruling fair, they will dismiss the case and approve the committee’s ruling.  

The council began with Katherine Tatley v. Briana Perrera in which Tatley accused Perrera of violating Item 6, Part C, Section 1 of the elections code, by using the ASUCR logo in her campaign material and that she used her position as senate secretary to create an unfair advantage. The council dismissed the first charge with a vote of 3-0-1 and dismissed the second unanimously, thus reaffirming the elections committee’s decision.

The next case was Semi Cole and Oscar Loera Gonzalez v. Haripriya Vasireddy in which Cole, a current CHASS senator, and Loera, the incumbent vice president of external affairs, argued that Vasireddy did not have the required year of experience to run for ASUCR president because the committee she was on only met winter and spring quarter with the elections committee ruling it was her responsibility to know this was an issue and should thus be disqualified. The council voted initially to dismiss and reaffirm the election committee’s decision with a vote of 3-0-1 but reconsidered after public comment to hear the case with a vote of 2-0-2.                       

The next was Aram Ayrapetyan v. John Tannous and Kevin Tseng in which Ayrapetyan, a current CHASS senator and 2017-18 ASUCR presidential candidate, accused Tseng of undermining his campaign by dropping out and endorsing Tannous for ASUCR president, and other candidates on Facebook. The elections committee believed Tseng, Tannous and all of the other candidates tagged in Tseng’s post should be delegated a different numbers of strikes based on whether they liked or shared the post. The council voted to send this back to the elections committee, believing that since Tseng was not running anymore, he could endorse whoever he wanted.

The next case was Hayden Jackson v. Marcos Ornellas, in which Ornellas was accused of displaying a campaign poster on the Rivera Library arches, in violation of the elections bylaws. The council voted to dismiss and affirm the elections committee’s decision at a vote of 2-0-2.

The council then moved into closed session, ending the public meeting at 6:32 p.m.

The next judicial council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, May 2 at 12 p.m. in the senate chambers.