Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Assembly to file weak appeal on PIRGIM case, student support can make a difference

25. March 2005 • Matt Hollerbach
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BACKGROUND – TRIAL NUMBER ONE

As a representative on the Michigan Student Assembly (MSA) I have been following closely the course of PIRGIM’s attempt to establish a pilot chapter on campus. In this process, it ran into a large obstacle when Assembly Chief of Staff Elliot Wells-Reid filed for an injunction preventing the vote, citing concerns over tax code, forced speech, and (eventually) MSA’s lack of certain funding guidelines.

The Central Student Judiciary (CSJ) ruled on the issue last week during the MSA’s widely publicized meeting in the Union ballroom, and it made many orders to the Assembly. The orders compelled the Assembly to (among other things):

  • not vote on the PIRGIM chapter
  • implement guidelines which go beyond those required by legal precedent
  • follow a strict process to establish these guidelines which is not required by legal precedent
  • allow the CSJ, not the elected representatives, to establish rules for student organizations

SEPERATION OF POWERS – NOT JUST ABOUT PIRGIM ANYMORE

It is clear that PIRGIM suffered a serious blow here. But I became aware of an even greater problem with the ruling. If left unappealed the ruling risked setting a dangerous precedent which takes legislative power away from the elected representatives. Essentially, the Judiciary violated the principle of the separation of powers, assuming powers specifically assigned to the Assembly. To use a common legal cliche – this amounts to legislation from the bench.

As of this week, Student General Counsel (SGC) Jesse Levine, who represented the Assembly in the initial trial, had not yet filed an appeal. He was running for president of MSA, and this is one possible reason he did not have the time to digest the situation and assess the Assembly’s interests in an appeal. This past Tuesday, he stated that he did not yet see the need for an appeal. And because of the provisions and organization of the Assembly, he is the only one who can file an appeal. Students for PIRGIM will appeal separately and for their own interests.

Either way, me and several other representatives saw the need for something to be done. Along with Nicole Campbell (Rackham), we drafted an outline of the legal arguments for a full appeal of the decision. We began contacting constituents, fellow Assembly members, and the representatives in other student governments on campus to build support. We have been successful in this regard, and Jesse met with Nicole and I Thursday evening, at which point he made us aware of his intention to file an appeal, albeit only on some of the weaker arguments. He promised to consider some of the other arguments overnight.

‘AMICI’ AND THIS POINT FORWARD

Jesse will be meeting with Nicole and I this afternoon to discuss the final terms of an appeal by the Assembly. We intend to hear his case, and file an Amicus brief on behalf of the Assembly asserting that we believe the Assembly’s (and thus all students’) interests are not being duly represented before the Judiciary. This brief will highlight the arguments that Jesse chooses to leave out of his filing.

You can read our legal arguments at umich.edu/~mhollerb/appeal/AmicusBrief-03.25.05.doc. If you are a student who is concerned that the Assembly may not be acting in your best interests, please e-mail msa.reps@umich.edu and let them know. The more constituent support, the more likely a proper appeal will be filed.

Please contact me with any questions.

Matt Hollerbach
mwh@umich.edu



  1. wait – how is this any more a usurption of legislative powers then the S. Ct. requiring Miranda warnings? or its decision in Roe?

    Mind you, I’m okay with both decisions – just nnot sure how you support one and not the other – unless of course its result driven.
       —David LIvshiz    Mar. 25 '05 - 03:13PM    #