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UJ rejects motion to dismiss Aronin impeachment case

Published: December 13, 2009
Section: Breaking News

The Student Union Judiciary (UJ) case that would remove Union Secretary Diana Aronin ’11 from the office of secretary overcame a hurdle Saturday as the UJ dismissed a motion to dismiss filed by lead defense counsel Deena Glucksman ’11.

The UJ trial, which has been scheduled for Jan. 24 at noon, is a result the Dec. 6 senate meeting, at which the Union Senate voted to impeach Aronin for allegedly violating Article XII, Section 5 of the Constitution. The section requires student body votes on proposed amendments to the Constitution to be called within a week of the proposal; however, the senate alleged that Aronin had planned to recommend the change to this year’s Constutitutional Review Committee instead.

Gluckman had filed a formal complaint against the impeachment’s validity in accordance with the Constitution’s voting rules for removing a Union officer.

Aiming the complaint at Executive Senator Jenna Rubin ’11, who as such is the Constitutional “Secretary of the Senate,” Glucksman wrote in the brief, “the impeachment was voted upon and enacted unconstitutionally” because only 11 senators voted during the session during which impeachment was raised.

Both council for the defense and the council for the Senate refused to comment on either the motion or the case.

According to the Constitution, a “two-thirds vote of the Senate” is required to impeach an elected Union officer, and so the defense initially charged that 11 votes does not meet the Constitutional requirement in the current Senate, which has 20 members.

The dismissal also sought a ruling as to whether the Senate’s numbers count as either 20 current members or 24 possible members (there are vacancies in some posts), and how regardless, both necessitate more than 11 votes to equal two-thirds of either total.

Ryan Fanning ’11,the Senate’s lead counsel working also with Jackie Saffir ’10 and Mark Trilling ’12, responded to both criticisms by citing “errors in fact and law” in his countermotion. In it, he used the recordkeeping minutes to show that “14 senators voted in favor of impeachment.” This can be seen in the attached minutes.” For the second charge, he pointed out to the UJ and defense that these 14 represented 100 percent “of those Senators who were present.

“Additionally, at the time of the vote there were 20 active Senators of a potential 23 [24 with the Union Vice President]. 14 of 20 Senators represents 70% of all active Senators,” the response said.

Fanning’s countermotion is consistent with Robert’s Rules of Order, the parliamentary procedure manual, which according to the Constitution “shall govern the conduct of all official meetings of the Student Union Senate.”

The Senate as claimant also rejected the use of vacant positions, arguing in a response to the dismissal motion that “it is unreasonable to include positions which are not filled in the calculation of what constitutes [two-thirds] of the Senate.” The Constitution, the counsels said, does not mandate all positions of the Senate to be filled.

The respondent and defense counsels used another brief to argue for counting all 24 Senate positions, but chiefly rejected the definition of a two-thirds vote anyway, arguing that more than just votes cast the night of impeachment counted toward the number of two-thirds.

The UJ decision Saturday sidesteps the argument of whether or not 20 or 24 senators are used for purposes of determining the Senate by ruling on this definition question, which found “in favor of Claimant’s interpretation” of the two-thirds rule, creating a Union definition of two-thirds of a body as distinct from two-thirds of members of that body.

While the defense correctly argued that the Constitution states clearly that Robert’s Rules only apply when it or bylaws do not, the UJ used the implication from the claimant’s interpretation. The Union document does not define “two-thirds vote” while Robert’s Rules do.

The five UJ justices also announced Saturday in an e-mail to The Hoot that unnamed parties involved in the case have requested the trial hearing to be closed to the public, including the student body.

While Article IV, Section 12 specifically states “all hearings of the Union Judiciary shall be open to the public,” there is a list of very explicit exceptions in the clause following it.

Students and other interested university groups can submit briefs arguing for or against the anonymous request at closure of the trial dependent on whether they believe the impeachment trial’s “information regarding the identities of participants, or about the case in general” is truly “so sensitive as to be inappropriate for public knowledge” or if public’s viewing of the hearing will negatively impact it. The briefs, of which none have so far been submitted, need to be sent to by Jan. 10.