News  Bangs v. Calver/Cheng J-Board preliminary hearing held

Calver asked press to leave mid-hearing

A date is yet to be set for the Bangs v. Calver and Cheng Judicial Board (J-Board) hearing, a case that was filed in April 2012 to contest the legitimacy of two questions passed during the Arts Undergraduate Society’s (AUS) 2012 winter referenda.

Filed by Christopher Bangs, the Chair for the ‘No’ Committees for the two contested questions, the case pursues former AUS President Jade Calver and former Elections AUS Chief Returning Officer Victor Cheng.

The questions in contestation – which were announced to members of the Society on April 13 – include increasing the majority required to amend the AUS Constitution from a simple plurality to a two-thirds majority, and allowing for online ratification of decisions made by the AUS General Assembly after the assembly takes place.

The SSMU J-Board held a preliminary conference last Friday to address contentious issues, exhibits, amendments, and witnesses with regards to the case, as well as to set a date for the actual hearing.

No date was set, however – during the “contentious issues” section of the conference, Calver expressed concerns that although it had been announced that one of the two interveners being considered for the case had been selected, she was aware of a third candidate who had applied.

Joel Kwan, Chief Justice of the J-Board, stated that he was unaware of a third candidate. In an interview with The Daily, Kwan stated that proceedings would be delayed until the issue at hand was dealt with, but that a hearing would be scheduled as soon as the matter was resolved.

Although the J-Board pushed to have the case dealt with before the 2012-13 academic year began, procedures were delayed due to difficulties maintaining a full J-Board Council over the summer. J-Board members Charif El-Khouri and Rachel Tonelli-Zasarsky – both of whom were present at the preliminary conference – are set to preside over the hearing.

The Petition’s Declaration submitted by Bangs on April 17 stated, “The Petitioner alleges that repeated and systematic violations of the AUS bylaws by Elections AUS compromise the integrity of the elections, and asks that the Judicial Board of the Students’ Society of McGill University find that the conduct of the Respondents violated the bylaws of the AUS and declare null and void the referendum questions…”

Among Bangs’ concerns were the fact that no vote count was ever taken at Council, that the questions were ratified by Council in English only, and that no announcement was ever posted in a student publication.

Bangs explained that given his understanding of Judicial Board procedures, he was unable to file a case against the entire AUS, which is why he filed a position against Calver and Cheng specifically.

The Respondent’s Position, submitted by Calver and Cheng on May 6, stated, “The validity of the 2012 AUS Winter Referendum Period is justified. Proper procedures were followed, questions were properly submitted through Legislative Council. Furthermore, Elections feels as though the Referendum Period was properly announced in a way that did not compromise the integrity of the vote, evidenced by the high voter turnout in the referendum period.”

The Respondents further alleged that “the petitioner is ultimately biased in his presentation of this case, given previous communications with the respondents during AUS Elections in his position as Chair of the ‘No’ Committee.”

Ten minutes into the preliminary hearing, Calver requested that press not be present for the conference. After a five minute recess in order to discuss the validity of the question – in which press was not present – Judicial Board members heard arguments from Bangs and Calver.

Calver, who argued that the negotiations should not be restricted by presence of the media, was opposed by Bangs, who stated that he preferred the presence of media as this was a matter of public dispute, where parties present had acted in a public role.

Before accepting Calver’s request and asking press in attendance to leave, J-Board member Tonelli-Zasarsky referred to Articles 27 and 28 of the SSMU Judicial Board Procedures, which state that “Hearings are open to the public, limited only by […] the discretion of the Judicial Board” and “the Judicial Board has the power to remove anyone from the Hearing if they are disruptive, threatening or offensive.”

Kwan later told The Daily that although the J-Board has decided to accept Calver’s request for the preliminary hearing, doors to the actual hearing, once scheduled, would be open to the press.