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Letter to the editor: Union Judicial rules quite imperfect

Published: September 21, 2007
Section: Opinions

Dear Editor,

I write to express my utter shock and disbelief at the new Union Judiciary rules and the issuance of an advisory opinion in two separate cases along with rules purporting to find judicial power to issue such opinions.

Setting to one side for a moment the compelling substantive objections to your holding, you [the UJ] have created a serious normative problem that strikes at the very heart of your legitimacy. You are first and foremost a court, you exist to resolve disputes. Part and parcel of this duty is not only issuing a decision but creating an atmosphere in which the students trust you to fairly resolve disputes and hence submit such disputes to your adjudication agreeing to loose. On this point, students will only accept your judgment if they see that you are exercising reasoned judgment and not merely raw judicial power. Here you have exercised judicial power in a form that would have brought awe to the Baron of Whym. In two minutes on the Student Union website I have found three decisions, and one concurring opinion of two Justices that do not merely reject the notion of power to issue advisory opinions, but say that to do so would be an abuse of power, but an abdication of your judicial role. See In Re Letter to the Senate;

Mauer v. Aman, Slip. Op. (2005);

Lober v. Union, 8 U.J. 1 (2003);

Union v. Khots, 7 U.J. 12 (2003)(Dewey and Mauer, J.J., concurring in the judgment). In your paragraph rule you have rejected the analysis of these cases, two of which were unanimousLetter to the Senate and Amanand one of whichLetter to the Senate devotes 35 pages to establishing this proposition after an exhaustive review of precedent. Now perhaps you think this analysis is wrongand I dont reach that question yetbut to dispense with that much precedent in one paragraph without any discussion convey to any person of any intelligence one message and one message only: though you do not give a whit for the law and exercise raw political power. How can any student trust you to resolve an election dispute when you show such disrespect for the rule of law? Personally I would have no faith in your resolution as I would see it as one of politics on a grand scale: the imperial judiciary lives. Moreover, how can anyone know what the law is if your decisions are open to constant revision from year to year ? Every rule becomes open to revision and there are no systems of constraints of the power of government;

you become dissolved into anarchy under such a system.

Turning to the merits, I commend you to the above opinions on the subject. I will only say this: your decision is dangerous at its core because it deprives students of the right to be heard. You have decided questions of law that are salient in their time without holding a hearing, and without hearing argument from an adverse party. This in turn creates a very scary situation in which a student with a concrete claim of right is confronted
with a ruling that came not out of a case but a closed door meeting. No evidence is presented, no briefing received, and no argument is served: merely a paper comes out that might as well end with so let it be written so let it be done. What is that student to do? His case has been decided before it has been heard. If there is anything that is inimical to our heritage and traditions of justiceand I would add to the ideal of Louis Brandeisit is that. The right to be heard has existed since 1215 in any institution
of Justice. I am appalled that it has been vitiated here.

I like to think of myself as a forgiving man and ordinarily would deal with this matter in house, but am compelled by a love of my Union to forward this letter to the appropriate political authorities and to the news organs.

– Samuel Everett Dewey '06

Dewey is a former Chief Justice of the Union Judiciary