Constitutional Council members respond to impeachment threats

April 13, 2017, 1:34 a.m.

Jonathan York J.D. ’18 and Brian Baran J.D. ’18, two Constitutional Council members whom the Undergraduate Senate and Graduate Student Council (GSC) are considering for impeachment, contest the allegations against them and argue that they were shut out of debate on the issue.

Wednesday’s GSC meeting continued discussion of bills for impeachment that was first raised Tuesday evening at the Senate’s meeting. The Constitutional Council resolves disputes over interpretations of the ASSU constitution; the impeachment bills stem from senators’ concern about Council members’ conduct in the recent case LSJUMB/KZSU v. Undergraduate Senate, which the Senate lost.

Senators seeking the Council members’ removal cite York’s alleged breaking of procedure and Baran’s behavior during a hearing. Undergraduate Senate Chair Shanta Katipamula ’19 said that she will assemble a more comprehensive list of complaints about York for next week’s meeting but noted, in particular, that he did not email senators about a pre-hearing case that was open to the public and later lied about it.

York and Baran, the two Council members under review, took issue with the Senate’s and GSC’s decision to raise the impeachment issue at meetings this week, given that York could not attend Tuesday’s meeting and that both had scheduling conflicts on Wednesday evening.

In response, Katipamula maintains that the Senate followed constitutional rules in deliberating the Council members’ removal. She says senators raised the issue in this week’s meeting in order to wrap up the matter before their terms ended and saved much of the debate for next week’s meeting, when York and Baran can be present.

During the Senate meeting, York was home in Los Angeles observing Passover. Baran and York also said that they did not know the GSC would be discussing impeachment until receiving an email from ASSU Exec Amanda Edelman ’17 less than an hour before the GSC meeting began.

Katipamula notified Baran and York that the Senate would look into impeachment on Monday, one day before the meeting was to be held. Baran requested in an email chain provided to The Daily that “the GSC’s consideration of this matter be delayed”; so did York.  

Katipamula and the chair of the GSC assured Baran and York over email that they would delay voting on the issue to next week — a promise that, Katipamula pointed out, neither the Senate nor the GSC violated by beginning to discuss the impeachment bills.

Still, Baran and York found the decision to move ahead problematic.

“Obviously, it’s not relevant for us to be there for the vote itself,” York said. “It’s relevant for us to be there for the debate and be heard and have a chance to speak up for ourselves.”

Katipamula responded that in-depth discussion would take place later when the Council members would have opportunities to present their sides. Senate procedures necessitated beginning the matter earlier, she said: Both the Senate and the GSC are allowed to vote on a bill only after introducing it in a prior meeting, unless the bodies’ normal rules are suspended. Prompt discussion was also needed, she said, to inform incoming ASSU Execs’ Council appointments.

“It was not an ill intentioned move,” she said.

York argued that the impeachment bills were not urgent given that the Constitutional Council was not about to rule on a case, criticizing the “very strange circumstance” in which a non-pressing issue “was discussed without the key people involved.”

York and Baran were also disappointed that, by their account, the Senate did not reach out to them to discuss worries before considering impeachment.

Responding to Katipamula’s concern that York did not properly inform senators of the pre-hearing meeting regarding the LSJUMB/KZSU case, Council member Debnil Sur ’17 wrote to The Daily that the Council interpreted the constitution to not require public notice for discussions about “frivolity,” or whether a case merits review.

Senators say Baran, on the other hand, displayed rudeness. At Tuesday’s meeting, Senator Jayaram Ravi ’19 accused Baran of launching into a 30-minute “tirade” unrelated to the topic at hand during a hearing. At Wednesday’s GSC meeting, senators also said that Baran interrupted and yelled at meeting participants in a way that troubled them.

Baran denied that anyone at the meeting yelled. He also called Ravi’s allegations false, saying he was unsure what tangent Ravi referred to and noting that he would have sought clarification if present.

“I’m not going to apologize for asking tough questions,” he added later, though he apologized for causing offense. “The Council’s job is to probe the parties’ arguments to see where they lead.”

Katipamula, on the other hand, noted that even York was uncomfortable with Baran’s conduct during the meeting: Shortly after the session, York emailed Katipamula and Senator Hattie Gawande ’18 to express his concern about the evening’s “tone.”

“Brian is well-intentioned,” York wrote in an email chain Katipamula provided to The Daily. “The way he argues is not far from the way oral arguments go at the law school: contentious, and full of interruption. Still, I was disappointed that he wasn’t able to adjust to what should have been a very different environment tonight.”

However, York believes neither his nor Baran’s actions merit impeachment. He noted that all members of the Council are new to the job; LSJUMB/KZSU v. Undergraduate Senate was their first case.

One anonymous undergraduate senator who spoke to The Daily agreed that impeachment is not warranted. Like York and Baran, the senator was uneasy with removing members of an independent judicial body due to something other than “clear bias.”

Baran and York were skeptical that the impeachment was unrelated to the Council’s unfavorable ruling against the Senate.

“We don’t know the bill sponsors’ motivations with certainty, but we can’t help but wonder whether this would be happening had we voted the other way,” Baran and York wrote in a joint statement to The Daily.


Contact Hannah Knowles at hknowles ‘at’

Hannah Knowles is senior staff writer from San Jose who served as Volume 253 Editor-in-Chief. Prior to that, she managed The Daily's news section.

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