Central Student Judiciary
Michigan Student Assembly

March 19, 2011

case number: W-11-001 (AdVISORY)


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Pursuant to his duties as Student General Counsel (“SGC”), Timothy Bekkers requested that CSJ issue an advisory opinion to provide interpretation of Article IV, Section C.1.a of the Complied Code.

In issuing its opinion, the Court first determines whether it has the power to issue an advisory opinion upon the request of the SGC. The Court unanimously decides that (1) the SGC has standing to request an advisory opinion and (2) the Court has the power to issue an advisory opinion.

As detailed in Article III, Section A.4, “the Student General Counsel shall have standing for all cases submitted to the Central Student Judiciary.” Additionally, Article III, Section 2 of the MSA Constitution states that “the Student General Counsel shall advise the Executive and the Legislature on the interpretation of the Constitution and the Compiled Code.” In considering this language, the Court finds that the SGC has standing to request an official advisory opinion.

With regard to the Court’s capacity to issue an advisory opinion, the 2010 MSA Constitution evinces a broad grant of jurisdiction: “[t]he Central Student Judiciary may hear appeals from inferior courts, challenges under this Constitution and the Compiled Code, Central Student Government elections, and any other case they deem appropriate.” The Court finds that this language is sufficient to confer the power to issue advisory opinions. Of note, the 2010 MSA Constitution does not expressly constrain the Court to hearing “cases or controversies,” as is apparent in Article III of the federal Constitution. Thus, we construe the term “case” in a capacious sense and find that it need not be limited to adversarial proceedings.

We now turn to the specifics of the SGC’s request. Quite simply, the SGC asks the court if the Election Director may concurrently serve as the Election Director and run in a non-MSA election at the University, considering the language of Article VI, Section C.1.a of the Complied Code:

a. Eligibility. The Election Director must be a currently-enrolled University student and not a member of CSJ, nor a representative, executive officer, commission chair, or select committee chair on MSA, nor a candidate in any election during which she will also serve as Election Director.

The Court finds the Article IV, Section C.1.a prohibits the Election Director from candidacy in any election across the University, during which he or she is serving as Election Director. In making in this determination, the Court examines Article VI, Sections B.2.b, C.1.d.iii, and J of the Compiled Code and observes, in some provisions, that the Code makes specific reference to “MSA elections” and in other provisions employs the term “any election.” A simple textual examination of the Code leads to the conclusion that Article VI, Section C.1.a intends to exclude the Election Director from “any election” at the University, not just MSA-specific elections.

Finally, and notably, this advisory opinion shall not be construed as an adjudication of the rights or actions of any individual student, involved in the election or otherwise. This opinion merely represents the Court’s interpretation of a provision in the Compiled Code, unapplied to any specific set of factual circumstances.

Chief Justice RINGWOOD, Justice STEVENS and Justice PARIKH join in this opinion.