WEB UPDATE: Student Court overturns four Kapoor violations, upholds three

The Student Court reversed four violations previously imposed upon Roger Kapoor by the Joint Elections Committee allowing him to remain eligible to win the Student Association presidency. The hearing began Thursday evening and lasted into the early hours of Friday morning.

The ruling does not allow votes to be counted until the JEC decides on all pending complaints. With four violations upheld by the court and four complaints pending before the JEC, Kapoor could still receive the eight violations necessary to remove him from the ballot.

“I am satisfied with the court’s decision,” Kapoor said.

JEC officials refused to comment on the decision, citing a “self-imposed gag order.” The court denied a motion for an official gag order on all JEC members.

The four violations reversed by the court involved the use of bulletin boards on community facilitators’ doors to display Kapoor’s posters and a pizza party at which Kapoor campaigned in a Thurston Hall study lounge.

The JEC counsel argued that because a CF is a University employee on duty 24 hours a day, CFs should not be allowed to campaign. The bulletin boards on the doors are University property, used for each CF’s community, JEC counsel said.

The court ruled “there is a fundamental distinction between an employee and a student employee.” A CF cannot be prevented from all campaign activity, the court ruled, and objections to CF campaign activity should be dealt with by the Community Living and Learning Center, not the JEC.

The court ruled that the JEC failed to provide sufficient evidence to establish that the CFs who displayed posters were agents of the candidate or that the bulletin boards are not their personal property. The court cited a 1998 JEC decision that allowed posters on CFs’ doors.

The court upheld three other violations contested by Kapoor, for the use of a CF e-mail list to promote a party at which Kapoor campaigned, and two violations concerning another a party in Thurston at which Kapoor campaigned. The court cited Kapoor for not reporting the pizza party in the common area to the JEC and holding the party in a common area of Thurston.

Kapoor was charged under a JEC rule that applies to Thurston Hall only that forbids candidates from campaigning in hall’s common areas.

The JEC counsel said an e-mail sent out by Thurston CF Clint Hall to his residents asking them to come to a party in his room to meet Kapoor was unsolicited by the residents and considered illegal online campaigning under the JEC charter. The JEC counsel argued that because Hall held a party for Kapoor in his room, Hall should be considered an agent who acted on Kapoor’s behalf. The court ruled that Hall fit the charter’s definition of a candidate agent in this instance and upheld the violation.

Kapoor’s counsel argued that the other party, a pizza party in a Thurston study lounge, was a community-building event held regularly by CFs. Kapoor testified he was invited by Thurston CF Aron Kuehnemann and was told that other candidates were also invited. Kuehnemann also told him the event was registered, but did not specify that he was referring to CLLC, not the JEC. The party was not registered with the JEC.

Kapoor said he did not find out until he received the violation that the event was registered with CLLC and not the JEC. Kapoor testified that he provided pizza for the party as a personal favor to Kuehnemann.

The court upheld the violation, stating that Kapoor should have checked that the party was registered with the JEC.

The court also upheld the charge that the event was held in a common area of Thurston, but reversed the charge for distributing food in the common area of a residence hall. The court ruled that Kapoor should not be charged with two violations for one event. He was already penalized under special JEC rules for distributing campaign information the Thurston study lounge.

The court ruled the pizza party was a campaign event and not an “open meeting.” Kapoor cannot be penalized for Kuehnemann’s actions – using University facilities for the party – because “the CF’s conduct cannot be attributed to (Kapoor),” the court ruled. This charge was overturned.

While Kapoor’s testimony was the only testimony in the defense’s case, the JEC counsel called several witnesses to defend its violation findings. Former CF applicant Sarah Outtarson, who was accepted but did not take the position, testified that, after going through weeks of pre-training for the position, she learned that being a CF is “not a job but a lifestyle.” She said CFs must be on duty 24 hours a day as role models and gave an example, saying that CFs must report underage drinking of residents even when off-duty.

Kapoor’s counsel presented a Feb. 27 memo from Assistant Dean of Students Mark Levine that stated that the CF position is not a 24-hour job and CFs may decorate their bulletin boards as they wish.

Thurston resident Denise Silvester, who took pictures of posters on CFs’ doors and filed a complaint about Kuehnemann’s e-mail, testified against Kapoor.

“CFs as figureheads should not have anything to do with elections,” she testified. Silvester said CFs who campaign are abusing their authority.

Silvester worked on presidential candidate Daniel Loren’s campaign, but said she filed the complaint “as a concerned student.”

Sophomore Josh Bhatti, campaign manager for presidential candidate Bob Simon, and SA Sen. Bill Eldridge (U-ESIA) were not called as witnesses but testified against Kapoor, voicing complaints they heard from students about postering and pizza parties.

Eldridge said that in a 1992 JEC case, the Student Court gave the JEC “broad authority” to interpret the charter as they see fit. Though the JEC charter has been changed several times since then, the principle should still hold, he said.

SA President David Burt, who said he saw the pizza party for Kapoor while campaigning for presidential candidate Bob Simon, and Senate candidate Jen Beppu, who said she also witnessed the party while campaigning in the Thurston Hall study lounge, testified against Kapoor.

Loren testified that he was not invited to the Thurston lounge pizza party.

Chief Judge Jon Rodeback presided over the hearing, with judges Ron Jacobs, Matt Hillson, Jeff Marootian and Alyson Rappoport.

“It went well,” Kapoor’s counsel Josh Rothstein said. “Roger had his day in court. We felt we were right and the court felt we were right.”

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