Central Student Judiciary


11/29/09

F09-04

Memorandum Opinion

Stenvig v. Election Director and Election Board


Ms. Stenvig asks the Court to issue a Temporary Restraining Order (“TRO”) that would place candidates who have been disqualified by the Election Board for technical reasons on the Fall 2009 ballot, until the matter can be further resolved (stipulating that the student body be allowed to vote for these candidates, but their votes should not be counted until CSJ has made a full inquiry and determination on the right of the above disqualified candidates to stand for election).

The standards for a TRO are found in the CSJ manual, and are as follows:
51.312 Temporary Restraining Order. Upon request of any party, CSJ may issue (without hearing, if necessary) a temporary restraining order when the following conditions are met:
(a) The requesting party has filed with CSJ Form 51-1 (with all attachments) initiating an action or is the defendant or respondent in such an action;
(b) The requesting party has filed with CSJ Form 51-2 accompanied by a short and plain statement explaining the need for the order;
(c) The party seeking the order will suffer immediate and irreparable injury, loss, or damage before a hearing could be held;
(d) There is some evidence to indicate that the party requesting the order will prevail at trial;
(e) The order, if issued, will not cause irreparable injury, loss, or damage to the opposing party; and
(f) Four CSJ justices agree that the order shall be issued.

The Court finds that Plaintiff has met her burdens under (a) and (b).

The Court is split as to whether Plaintiff has met her burden in (c). Plaintiff is not one of the candidates who have been harmed as a result of this claim, and as a result, Plaintiff maintains the ability to vote for the candidate of her choice by write-in. And yet, Plaintiff has persuasively shown that she will be injured beyond repair if the TRO does not issue.

The Court is unconvinced that Plaintiff has met her burden in (d). The facts as alleged do not do an adequate job of showing this Court that the Election Board denied the potential applicants their due process rights. The Court determined in Yousuf (F09-02) that when a candidate application is accepted, and then later rejected by the Election Director or Election Board, for any reason, (including lack of proper enrollment status, failure to file the application on time, or an incomplete application), the candidate-to-be-removed has a basic due process right to at least receive notice of the problem, to submit a written petition arguing why he/she should not be removed from the ballot within 24 hours, and to have that petition heard and ruled on by the Board within 24 more hours, subject only to review for clear error by CSJ. The potential candidates in this case received notice that there were problems with their applications, and were given 24 hours to take care of them without penalty. To the Court’s knowledge, as alleged in Plaintiff’s facts, the potential candidates refused to amend their applications due to privacy concerns. Even if the potential candidates had filed a petition to the Election Board within 24 hours, and assuming the board ruled on that petition within 24 more hours, the decision reached would only be subject to review for clear error by this Court. Based on the information the Election Board requested, if the candidates refused to submit that information, and the board rejected their applications as incomplete, that decision can be reviewed by CSJ for clear error, per Yousuf. But, the court is unlikely to find the Board's decision to reject candidates’ applications due to “privacy concerns” to be clearly erroneous.

Plaintiff’s TRO request will be denied as the Court is unconvinced that Plaintiff has met her burden in (e). For the student body to vote for a candidate and then to have that candidate potentially removed from the ballot is harmful to both the student voters, as well as to the other verified candidates who may lose a critical majority as a result of extra parties being on the ballot. Those candidates who are on the ballot met the minimum requirements for candidacy, while those at issue did not. It would be unduly burdensome at this late stage to force the Election Board to put the candidates on the ballot and hold the election, subject to a later determination of candidate eligibility. Doing so would cause irreparable harm to the legitimacy of the election, and the Election Board has an interest in preserving that legitimacy. The Court believes that taking Plaintiff’s proposed actions would cause irreparable injury, loss, or damage to the opposing party, and thus, Plaintiff’s TRO request is denied.

Finally, Plaintiff has not met the burden in (f), as she has not swayed 4 or more CSJ justices to her position.

For the reasons above, Plaintiff’s request for a Temporary Restraining Order is DENIED.

Joining in this opinion are Associate Chief Justice Beitner, Justices Huston, Particka, Averill, Kahn, Ringwood and Kokoczka.


Daniel S. Horwitz
Chief Justice