Central Student Judiciary
Michigan Student Assembly

Hamdan A. Yousuf

v.

Election Director eMILY wINTER, AND Election Board

November 23, 2009

Pre-Trial Conference Opinion

RINGWOOD, J. delivered the Opinion of a Unanimous Court.

Introduction

Plaintiff Hamdan YOUSUF has filed this action alleging that the Defendant Emily Winter, in her official capacity as ELECTION DIRECTOR, and the ELECTION BOARD of MSA, improperly denied his candidacy application for the upcoming MSA elections and improperly set the deadline for submitting candidate applications. YOUSUF argues that the actions of the Defendants violated his rights under the MSA Constitution and MSA Compiled Code, and that punitive sanctions are appropriate.

A panel of four Justices conducted a pretrial conference in this matter on November 22nd, 2009. Justice HUSTON presided, joined by CHIEF JUSTICE HORWITZ, JUSTICE RINGWOOD, and JUSTICE TORRES.

Procedural Motions

Motion to Disqualify Counsel

Plaintiff YOUSUF moved to disqualify the Student General Counsel as representative of Defendants in this matter, on the grounds that MSA is not itself a defendant and that therefore, the Student General Counsel is not an appropriate representative. The Court heard oral argument on this motion.

Plaintiff’s motion to disqualify the Student General Counsel was DENIED, on the grounds that the Defendants were sued in their official capacities for actions taken pursuant to their official duties. As officers of MSA, the ELECTION DIRECTOR and ELECTION BOARD are entitled to be represented in this matter by the Student General Counsel

Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction

Defendants moved, pursuant to 51.331(a) to dismiss the action for lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter, on the grounds that the Court lacked jurisdiction under 51.11 because the action should have, but did not, originate with the Election Board, in accordance with the MSA Constitution, Art. V, sec E(2). The Court heard oral argument on this motion.

Defendants’ motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction was DENIED, on the grounds that the MSA Constitution is primarily concerned to see that an election dispute is brought before the Election Board before it is brought before CSJ. In this case, Plaintiff presented the ELECTION BOARD with his written objections to the decision to deny acceptance of his candidate application in a timely manner, and before filing his action with CSJ. The Student General Counsel stated at oral argument that the ELECTION BOARD did not treat Plaintiff’s objections as a properly filed complaint. However, the ELECTION BOARD also did not inform Plaintiff of the manner of filing a proper complaint, and instead took no action on Plaintiff’s objections at all. After receiving no response to his objections from the ELECTION BOARD, and with the relevant election fast approaching, the Court finds that Plaintiff has complied with the Constitution and this Court has jurisdiction to hear Plaintiff’s action.

Stipulations

Defendants have stipulated to the accuracy of paragraph three (3) of Plaintiff’s complaint. Defendants have stipulated to the authenticity of two emails from the ELECTION DIRECTOR to YOUSUF, dated November 15, 2009 and November 17, 2009. Defendants have stipulated to the authenticity of the Candidate Application Receipt dated November 13, 2009, bearing the signature of the ELECTION DIRECTOR.

Questions to be Addressed at Trial

The Parties should direct their arguments at trial to the following issues:

1. May the ELECTION DIRECTOR or ELECTION BOARD, consistent with the Code and Constitution, set a deadline for submission of candidate applications in advance of the 16 day cut off set out in the Code (Art. V.B.2.d)?
2. Was the receipt of Plaintiff’s candidate application falsified by the ELECTION DIRECTOR?
3. May the ELECTION DIRECTOR reverse her decision to accept a candidate application on her own?
4. What role may the ELECTION BOARD play in assisting the ELECTION DIRECTOR in deciding whether to accept or reject candidate applications, as well as in deciding whether to overrule an earlier acceptance decision?
5. Whether the ELECTION BOARD is properly characterized as a student organization for purposes of the Constitution and Compiled Code?
6. What constitutes “misconduct” and “serious misconduct” under the Constitution and Compiled Code?

Discovery Order

Plaintiff Hamdan YOUSUF has filed a motion for discovery pursuant to section 51.34 of the CSJ Manual of Procedure, requesting both documents and oral depositions. Section 51.34 allows for discovery of “evidence in the exclusive control of the opposing party” “on any matter which is relevant to the subject matter of the dispute.” The panel heard oral argument on the motion at the pre-trial conference. For the reasons that follow, the Plaintiff’s motion is GRANTED as set forth in this Order.

Due to the expedited nature of the proceedings, discovery will be limited to only those items that may be quickly and reasonably located by the Defendant ELECTION DIRECTOR, and to only those items that are most relevant to the current dispute. Because the Court does not believe that oral depositions will assist in the resolution of this matter, the Court will not order oral depositions to be taken.

For these reasons,

IT IS ORDERED that, pursuant to section 51.34 of the CSJ Manual of Procedure, Defendant Emily Winter, ELECTION DIRECTOR shall deliver all electronic mail messages “pertaining” to the action of Hamdan A. Yousuf v. Election Director and Election Board to Plaintiff Yousuf and the Central Student Judiciary by 5:00PM TODAY, November 23, 2009.

“Pertinent” electronic mail messages are defined as follows:

§ Any electronic mail, sent or received by Defendant ELECTION DIRECTOR, containing Plaintiff YOUSUF’S first and/or last name, that makes reference to Plaintiff Yousuf’s candidacy for election to the MSA in the Fall 2009 election.
§ Any electronic mail, sent or received by Defendant ELECTION DIRECTOR, that makes reference specifically to Plaintiff Yousuf’s application for candidacy for election to the MSA in the Fall 2009 election, whether or not Plaintiff YOUSUF’S name is found therein.

It is the expectation of the court that Defendant ELECTION DIRECTOR will utilize a “word search,” or the like, to obtain relevant discovery documents in good faith and expedience.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Defendant ELECTION DIRECTOR send any “pertinent” electronic mail messages (supra) thought to constitute private or privileged communications solely to the Central Student Judiciary for in camera review by the same deadline.

Hearing Date, Time, and Location
The trial in this matter is set for November 23rd, 2009 tentatively at 11:30 p.m., in the MSA Chambers. The parties should be prepared to be notified by the Court to appear sooner in the evening, but should be ready to proceed by 11:30 p.m.


Dated this 23RD Day of November, 2009.

JUSTICE RINGWOOD, joined by HUSTON, J. (Presiding Justice), CHIEF JUSTICE HORWITZ, and TORRES, J.