We’ve just gotten a hold of the unanimous decision by the Union Judiciary to rule in the favor of Noam Shouster and Nelson Rutrick in the Brooks case. There was one concurring opinion by Justice Judah Marans.
Here’s the relevant graf –
Therefore, on all counts the members undersigned of the Union Judiciary find for the Elections Commission, and hereby lift the injunction against Noam Shouster. We request that the Secretary certify as official all results from the Second Round of the Spring 2008 Elections and that the President of the Union swear Noam Shouster in as Senator-at-Large at the next regularly convened meeting of the Senate.
Summary of the opinion follows
The 2-and-a-bit page long majority opinion divided its attention between the two counts before it – whether then-Chief of Elections Nelson Rutrick was guilty of unseemly conduct in his handling of elections complaints regarding Ms. Shouster, and whether Noam Shouster was to be held culpable for alleged libel committed by us.
In the first case, the Court wrote a lot of flowery language but this is the meat of the issue:
Write-in candidates are already at such an extreme disadvane that the court is loath to place another burden upon them. They do not have access to Student Union resources or the ability to get official endorsements, and they must have 10% of voters physically write their name onto the ballot. In return for placing their name on a sign-up sheet and meeting with an elections commissioner, balloted candidates receive all the aforementioned advanes. If a write-in candidate chose to run on the day of the election or a friend chose to campaign for them without their knowledge, they would be said to have violated the no campaigning rule unless they had met with an elections commissioner. If the court chose to impose such a tight restriction on write-in candidates, we would essentially be spelling out the end of write-in campaigns.
Simply put, the court agrees with what Nelson himself wrote back in the day – forcing write-in candidates to meet with an elections commissioner before campaigning is ridiculous, destroys the whole point of write-in candidates in the first place, and is a bad idea in general.
On the issue of libel, the court spends some time applying the “prongs” of libel – malicious intent, factual inaccuracy, and damaging someone’s reputation- to the situation. After filtering out all but one statement using the first two prongs, the court ended up with this:
Even were the court to agree that the post was intentionally false—the interpretation most favorable to the complainant—we still do not believe that Mr. Brooks’ reputation in the community was damaged by Mr. Hughes’ blog post. The post was only slightly inaccurate, as Mr. Brooks was one of only two senators to vote in favor of the resolution, denoting strong support for it, if not authorship. In addition, the post was subsequently corrected and Justin Sulsky, who did author the resolution, was elected Senator-at-Large, indicating that mere authorship of the resolution could not have too damaging an effect on Mr. Brooks’ reputation.
Long story short – you can hardly claim that your reputation is damaged because people believe you backed a specific bill slightly more than you actually did.
So, congrats to Noam Shouster, who will finally be sworn in as Senator at Large. The people’s will has triumphed over frivolous lawsuits, and we can all now enjoy the sunny outdoors.
You can find the full text of the decision hosted by the InnermostParts.org archive, including the concurring opinion of Justice Marans, which is sufficiently technical and wordy that I’ll leave summarizing it as a exercise for the reader.
2 responses to “UJ rules on Brooks vs Shouster, Rutrick”
Thank you to the UJ for efficiently settling this case with great distinction and thought. All those who sat through the long trial ordeal appreciate your well worded and strong decision.
Our long collegiate nightmare is over.
Brandeis has had its requisite Student Union scandal-of-the-year: feelings have been hurt, issues blown out of proportion, and people insulted. Business as usual.