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Monday, April 05, 2004
Both sides in Holohan vs. Simon managed to lose last night.
The Judicial Council handed down a ruling unaninimously finding for Squelch! in that Ms. Simon's actions are illegal. Indeed, everything relating to the case at hand is dealt with in the first paragraph. I'd be a lot happier if they stopped there-- it treats the case at hand, it provides a concise ruling, and applies excellent judicial logic. Lets print it in full.
In the case at hand, the Judicial Council is asked to interpret a very broad definition of free speech in permitting or censoring the vulgarities within the presented Voters’ Guide candidate statements. Simon says the vulgarities in this public document should be censored in accordance with legal precedents. It is the unanimous opinion of this Council that the Association retains the power necessary to establish similar statutes but has never done so. Therefore, the censoring actions taken by Publicity Coordinator are unconstitutional, as she lacks such delegated authority.Unfortunately, five members of the Judicial Council decide to go beyond the case at hand-- which is essentially about obscenity clauses-- and try to establish themselves as the adjudicators of what constitutes a 'political comment' -- even if the candidate argues that it does!
The majority listed above believes that in order to express such opinions, candidates must make an explicit connection to their opinions of the Association, so as to leave no doubt about the statements’ relevance, in compliance with Title IV. Otherwise, any irrelevant statement, which appears to contribute nothing towards the election, could be arbitrarily argued to have an implicit political expression. This goes against the very spirit of the Voters’ Guide.God forbid we go against the spirit of the Voter's Guide! This means that Matt Holohan's statement, the word 'fuck' repeated, was declared illegal-- not because it's obscene, but because they don't think it's explicit enough 'what he thinks of the Association'! (How more explicit of an opinion does 80 'fucks' get?) My statement would presumably be illegal, since all I do is recite a crappy poem from High School. The thin legal reed this is hung on is:
Title IV Art IV section 1 "The Voters' Guide shall provide an opportunity to candidates, parties, proponents and opponents of propositions to express their opinions on the Elections, and for information to be disbursed to the electorate about the ASUC, the voting procedures, and the candidates and propositions."
The first problem with this is that it prohibits statements not relating to 'the Association.' For instance, it arguably prohibits candidates from talking about National or Statewide issues. More broadly, it not only tries to make an impossible distinction between 'political' and 'non-political' but between 'acceptable political' and 'inacceptable political'. Holohan's statement can easily be read by voters as a nihilist rejection of the ASUC, as a promise of the Squelch!'s ideology of having fun with things, or many other interpretations. Who is the J-Council to say 'not good enough!'?
But the real problem is that it gives the J-Council the right to decide what is and isn't acceptable speech. As Justice Davis and Grunwald say in their dissent,
We are not convinced by the majority’s argument that the voters should be protected and spoon-fed relevant statements, and even if they were it is not our job to determine what political statement is relevant, or screen statements that may have multiple meanings. In a democratic process the communication between the choosing populace and the candidates who would represent them should be as unfettered as possible (with in the established bounds of propriety set by the legislating body) to give the voters the most information and options about their choice.Bravo. The voters should decide what statements are relative and what they mean, not some appointed body of political speech experts who know better then the candidates themselves what is 'relevant.' If the candidate says that a statement is political and can provide any sort of reasoning behind it, who gave the J-Council the right to decide for the Voters if it's applicable or not.
While I'm on the warpath it's time to give out Free Speech Awards for the stumbling, bumbling appointees that have lost sight of what political freedom is all about.
The And Now For Something Completely Different Award goes to Justices Gregg, Cooper, Banerji, Ali-Sullivan, and Taylor for dealing with the actual case in one paragraph and moving on to dramatically draft new powers and rights for the J-Council.
The Until I Turn Blue Award goes to Publicity Coordinator Simon for threatening to quit if the rest of the Elections Council overruled her and published the Voter's Guide statements as they stood, like they wanted to. She is an example of maturity to us all.
The Charlie Brown Award goes to Attorney General Powell for determinedly not taking a stance on this issue. He agreed with Squelch! but gave in to the Publicity Coordinator threatening to resign, demonstrating a fiery passion for avoiding controversy. The Graduate Assembly will presumably join in this award, after his hemming and hawwing for months kept the GA Autonomy initiative from getting on the ballot.
And finally, the Champions of Politeness Award goes to the Squelch! Party, for being paragons of politesse and diplomacy. We met with the Elections Council frequently, tried to work out compromises, and held off on suing until we had to choose between giving up our rights or putting in a motion. And even then we met with Ms. Simon to try and handle things maturely. Kudos for AAVP Candidate Holohan and EVP Candidate Duman especially for their time and patience during this.
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