Sunday, April 22.
The ASUO Constitution Court heard the Dotters-Katz v. ASUO Executive grievance publicly today, and the OC couldn’t cover it live on the blog because there weren’t any fucking outlets in the room. Not sorry.
The grievance was filed by former ASUO President and current UO law student, Sam Dotters-Katz, against our current, beloved ASUO President Ben Eckstein & Vice President Katie Taylor. You can read our earlier coverage of the allegations here, but the grievance is basically an attempt to compel the Con Court to “invalidate the office” of the current ASUO Executive due to the “egregious misconduct” that was the sneaky, conflict-of-interest contribution Charles Denson made to the Ben & Katie ASUO presidential campaign of last year.
Anyway, the ASUO Constitution Court put on quite the show. They wore robes and had DPS officers present. It was all very pseudo-official.
We were all wondering why this was happening in the first place. Because if you know anything about anything, you would know that grievances are filed on the reg amongst the ASUO but never are these grievances heard publicly, and hardly is the Con Court ever seen. So to start, the Court explained that the hearing was being held because of “the merit of the petitioner’s claim, and the stature of the respondent’s office.”
The introductions of both Sam Dotters-Katz—who will be referred to from now on as “SDK”—and Ben Eckstein—who will be referred to from now on as “Beckstein”—were short and disjointed due to the heavy interruption by the Court. I can assure you that both SDK and Beckstein were visibly upset that they couldn’t hear themselves talk for the fifteen consecutive minutes they were expecting to have to do so.
This first part of the hearing was conducted with the burden of proof on the petitioner (SDK). It went a little like this.
1) The Court asked about the statements Beckstein made in this Ol’ Dirty Emerald article. SDK says they’re proof of guilt. Beckstein says that his statements were speculative.
2) The Court discussed the varying definition of “fraud.” SDK used a Webster’s definition. Beckstein used a 5-part US Legal Dictionary definition, claims that SDK would have to prove that respondents were guilty of all five facets of the definition.
3) The Court asked when both petitioner and respondent found out about Denson’s contributions: SDK heard it through “the rumor mill” in the days before the ODE article came out. Beckstein found out a short time after the transaction had been made. Our favorite response came from VP Taylor, who cited “I read about it in the paper like everyone else.” God we love her.
Then there was a brief recess because Chief Justice Schultz said it was “getting hot in here.”
The second part of the hearing was framed in a way in which the Court could hypothesize the guilt of the ASUO Executive. Listed below is what was touched upon.
1) The Court asked respondent about the detrimental effects on the election that could have been caused by Denson’s contributions: Beckstein asserted that contribution transactions wouldn’t have been known to voters, and that the Ben & Katie campaign was openly pro-OSPIRG so nothing was hidden.
2) The Court asked respondent whether or not Denson intended to change the outcome of the election with his contributions: Beckstein says that “even if he had that intention, he couldn’t achieve that end by making a contribution.” And if the election results were indeed affected by his contribution, Beckstein cited ASUO Elections Coordinator Cedar Cosgrove to argue for the “ambiguity of the elections rules.”
3) The Court asked petitioner about the suggested remedy for this injustice: SDK made clear that he was not asking for “impeachment for non-fulfillment,” but for the Court to “invalidate” their winning of office. SDK went on to say something like “If compromising election information comes up later, they candidates aren’t immune to the rules, just because they kept a secret for so long or because there’s a month left in their term.” Beckstein rebutted saying that SDK was asking for “the disenfranchisement of thousands of voters.”
4) The Court asked respondent a GOOD QUESTION that was along the lines of, “Had Katie & Alex been elected this year, and had their little political sabotage problem come to light far after their instatement into the ASUO Executive (in the way that this claim has), should they be removed?” Beckstein said he couldn’t answer because the facts were too different and because he was not part of the campaign. The Court rephrased the question to be more general, along the lines of, “Is there any circumstance in which violation of election rules can constitute removal of office?” Beckstein said yes, but not in this case. Beckstein went on to say, “The ASUO Constitution is supreme over election rules once a President and Vice President have been instated in office.” SDK thanked the Court for the questioning, and thought that Beckstein’s statement was crucial by admitting that there is indeed circumstances in which an executive office can be invalidated at a later date for violations of elections. With this, SDK urged the court to invalidate the current executive.
The end was the best part.
As we approached adjournment, Beckstein argued that SDK’s grievance had political motives. Associate Justice Melka-Benevento apologized and admitted that it was her first year as a Justice, therefore it was her first year in the ASUO. She didn’t know what he meant by political motives. She even asked for him to define it. Of course, everyone else in the room knew what Beckstein meant. Everyone else in the room was an active member of the ASUO or campus media. But this poor, naive, Justice of the Court couldn’t even fathom the fact that our student government is fueled by political motives. I write about this shit on the daily and even I can’t fathom it.
The significance of this doesn’t lie in whether or not SDK has political motivations. The significance lies in the embarrassing truth that the actions of our student body President and Vice President were so serious, and the petitioner’s claim had so much “merit,” that the Constitution Court felt it necessary to hold what was essentially a public trial. Our President and Vice President are being tried for egregious misconduct and the Court is deliberating their removal.
They will deliver their decision by Friday, so yeah. We’ll letchu know then.