The SSMU Judicial Board (J-Board) heard the case of Bangs v. Calver and Cheng last Tuesday. Failing to appear at the hearing were the two respondents to the case, former AUS President Jade Calver and former Elections AUS Chief Returning Officer Victor Cheng.
The case, which contests the legitimacy of two questions passed during the Arts Undergraduate Society’s (AUS) 2012 Winter Referenda, was filed in April 2012 by Christopher Bangs, the chair for the No Committee of the two contested questions.
J-Board Chief Justice Joel Kwan announced 15 minutes into the hearing – which had been rescheduled multiple times earlier that day and finally set for 5:30 p.m. – that the respondents would not be attending.
He explained that although “today was a good moment” for the hearing to proceed, Calver and Cheng had made it clear that they would not appear and did not wish to continue with the case.
Kwan then explained that it would be up to Bangs as to whether or not he wished to proceed with the trial or resort to a “default judgment.”
According to Kwan, a default judgment would still require Bangs to present his arguments and provide a burden of proof for his case. Bangs immediately accepted to proceed, and over the next hour his arguments were presented to Kwan and J-Board members Charif El-Khouri and Rachel Tonelli-Zasarsky.
In his opening statement, Bangs told the J-Board, “I think as this hearing unfolds it will be very clear that many repeated violations occurred. I hope I can prove to you that these violations affected the results [of the election]… These violations are serious, they are repeated, and they are uncorrected.”
Bangs argued that no vote count was ever taken at Council, that Council ratified the questions in English only, and that no announcement was ever posted in a student publication, all of which, he alleged, violate AUS Bylaws.
He also said that the AUS’ failure to publicize the times and locations of polls, as well as their failure to distribute the amended version of the motions – which included restrictions of the campaign period by four days – could have affected both voter turnout and the way that people voted.
In the Petitioner’s Declaration submitted by Bangs on April 17, it was stated 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 the conduct of the Respondents violated the Bylaws of the AUS and declare null and void the referendum questions…”
In the respondent’s position, submitted on May 6, it is stated, “the validity of the 2012 AUS Winter Referendum Period is justified. Proper procedures were followed; questions were properly submitted through Legislative Council. Further, 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, “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 Committees.’”
Tuesdays’s hearing had been delayed a number of times – over the summer because a full J-Board could not be maintained, and more recently because of complications involving intervener hiring.
The J-Board reserves 15 days from the hearing date to make a final judgment on the case.