Court keeps five SA candidates off ballot

The student court ruled Sunday that Student Association presidential candidate Phil Meisner, executive vice presidential candidate Cat Sadler and three Senate candidates should remain off the ballot in this week’s election.

In a hearing, the court found the Joint Elections Committee did not follow procedures in removing the candidates from the ballot Feb. 19. But that failure to adhere to policy was not sufficient to put the candidates back on the ballot.

The court reinstated Heath Hanson, a candidate for an undergraduate at large Senate seat. The court said Hanson never received due process because he did not get a hearing with the other candidates.

The JEC removed Meisner, Sadler and Senate candidates Elizabeth Foo, Sarah Franklin and Elizabeth Cox because Meisner arrived more than 15 minutes late to a mandatory candidates’ meeting Feb. 16. The five other candidates had proxied their attendance to Meisner, which meant he would take their place at the meeting. The JEC claimed it never received Hanson’s letter of proxy and invalidated his candidacy.

The plaintiffs’ counsel, Jeremy Dutra, said Meisner was late to the meeting because he was accompanying Sadler to the hospital, where she was being treated for pneumonia.

The JEC said although an extenuating circumstance existed, it was never formally presented to the committee because Meisner did not attend the sanction hearing or the appeal, and therefore the JEC was forced to remove the candidates.

Both Meisner and JEC members said they were shocked with the ruling.

“The decision is just baffling,” said Meisner, who was not present at the hearing. “I had hoped the court would be objective.”

Kim McCaughey, the JEC’s counsel, said she expected the court to weigh the evidence the JEC never heard and place the candidates back on the ballot.

“It was the understanding of the JEC (that the student court) would act as a court of last resort,” McCaughey said.

She said the JEC expected the court to keep Hanson off the ballot and reinstate the other five and said she was “shell-shocked” with the court’s decision.

Student court Chief Judge Matthew Leddicotte said the court found the JEC had violated policies in handling the candidates’ status but did not feel it warranted reinstating all of the candidates.

“We didn’t believe the relief met the threshold we were seeking,” he said.

Although all four judges agreed to reinstate Hanson, Judge Jahna Hartwig dissented in the ruling against the other candidates, claiming the JEC’s rules violation warranted reinstatement.

“The JEC’s actions are so egregious that the candidates should be reinstated to the ballot,” Hartwig said.

Meisner said he and Sadler will continue to run as write-in candidates.

“We have a shot if students want us,” he said.

Jeff Marootian, Meisner’s counsel, said the campaign “will be vehemently opposing the court’s decision publicly,” although he could not say how the ruling could be overturned.

Sadler said GW students support her and Meisner, and it would be a “slap in the face” not to continue as candidates.

-Theresa Crapanzano contributed to this report.

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