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Monday, April 26, 2004
Last night's hearings were delayed for about half an hour because of some schoolyard antics by--ironically--a non-student.
Luke Massie, a balding, bearded man ostensibly representing Yvette Fellarca of the Defend Affirmative Action Party, was making allegedly threatening faces at the witnesses for the prosecution during their testimony. Judicial Council Chair Mike Davis abruptly called a five-minute recess during defense's cross-examinations, and upon returning, Senior Associate Justice Bobby Gregg asked Massie if he would kindly refrain from making faces and trying to intimidate the witnesses. Massie responded by sticking out his tongue. Davis slammed his gavel, cancelled the hearing, and retreated to the second floor of Eshleman, Council in tow.
After about ten minutes, a representative was sent down to negotiate. The Council made available two possibilities:
1) Luke Massie, now held in contempt of court, could leave and allow the proceedings to resume; or
2) He could stay and the Council would continue its deliberations entirely behind closed doors.
After a bit of obligatory First-Amendment protesting and threats to appeal, Massie agreed to leave, paving the way for the return of the Council and the resumption of what would be more than three more hours of testimony.
During the interim confusion, immediately after the J-Council left and before the deal was announced, CalSERVE and DAAP party members mingled and talked. When they noticed me taking notes, "Brent" came over to intercept me. He offered to tell me "whatever [I] need," so long as we walked conveniently out of earshot of the main CalSERVE/DAAP throng.
When Brent was unsuccessful, shushing motions were made and everybody shut up. The only interesting thing I could pick out, though, was a CalSERVE official assuring Luke Massie that "we all know this is fuckin' bullshit," but that it would be easier if he left. Still, I get the impression that at least some of their conversation was potentially incriminating if they were so eager to keep even a doofy freshman writing for a weblog from writing down their words.
Some other items of note:
> Paul LaFata's got a nice lawyer-voice. It's loud and booming, but not unnecessarily so; very good at commanding attention. Drawback: when he momentarily loses his train of thought or pauses, it's that much more jarring.
> Paul LaFata really likes saying "that is to say" a lot. I suppose it would be awkward to say "i.e." in conversation.
> The proceedings reminded me, in general, of the briefly-aired fourth "Law & Order" spin-off, "Crime & Punishment," which disastrously featured real-life courtrooms instead of those populated by actors.
> LaFata misidentified Jenn Chon as a man. She is, in fact, a woman.
> Mike Davis has a world-class ability to slouch in his chair and look surly. That said, he does simultaneously manage to look very important and professional. Additionally, once Council took a much-needed break to get snacks and drinks, Davis was in a much better mood.
> After about 10 minutes of back-and-forth, trying to figure out where some of the witnesses actually were during the SJP demonstration with fruitless verbal descriptions of spatial relationships, Paul LaFata suggested someone draw an actual map of the demonstration What proceeded was a nine-minute attempt to chicken-scratch a rough map on the whiteboards behind the Council.
> Mike Davis, Boy Scout for nine years that he was, came prepared with dry-erase markers. He made sure whoever was drawing had a different color when they needed one so that their map wasn't too confusing.
> Paul LaFata has big shoes, and, presumably, feet.
> There also seemed to be an Associate Justice who looked remarkably out of place. He was sitting at the far right side of the J-Council table, wearing jeans, a T-shirt, tennis shoes, and a black baseball cap. Not quite professional attire. It turned out he was Attorney General last year.
> A video was played that showed Renita Chaney, CalSERVE presidential candidate, wearing a CalSERVE shirt and mentioning that she was part of CalSERVE. It also showed a student reading a truly awful poem about the US-Mexico border. Because Council's (and the Senate's) chambers lacks a projection screen of any sort, the tape was played on a tiny television around which huddled all 30 or 40 people in attendance. Council was mildly amused.
> Perception vs. Reality was a big theme, as in the difference between the questions, "What were they saying?" and "What did you perceive them to be saying?" More than one objection was sustained on those grounds, let me tell you.
> One of CalSERVE's gallery members wore a T-shirt that had the word "Cronic" written on it in the font Corona beer uses. To be fair, it may not have been a tacky reference to marijuana at all, but rather a tragically truncated allusion to Gabriel García Marquez's novella, "Crónica de una Muerte Anunciada," or "Chronicle of a Death Foretold."
All in all, as I posted this morning, while the hearing was very enlightening at (very few) times, I'm no longer so certain Paul LaFata and his wide, disarming grin will come out on top. He puposely didn't focus on SJP's funding, instead basing his case on the fact that such funding invariably gives student groups the ASUC's sponsorship and allows them to act under its umbrella of authority. It by no stretch of the imagination is easy to predict in this instance, especially as I found the defense counsel to be nearly wholly incompetent. Nevertheless, the outcome of this case may not be what seemed the inevitable conclusion to many of us when Renita Chaney got up and spoke all those weeks ago.Email This Post!
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