13 people sit at tables arranged like three sides of a square. They are looking grim and serious in their business attire. The one in the center has a gavel set in front of him.
In the centre of this box sit the three defendants -- Elections Commission Chairman Leathers, Associate Justice Harney, and Chief Justice Fricke.
Senator Birdsall, a girl with that librarian style look about her, takes the floor and reads the impeachment charges against the defendants. They are more or less a tirade about the Court and Elections Committee running renegade, overstepping their authority, and/or being biased, and of "violating the brown act."
She finishes her elaborate indictment, the room is silent as all eyes turn to the defendants. We sit patiently waiting for the nod from the Senate President Pro Tem. It comes, and I stand up...
To be elected as a Senator of the Associated Students of the University of California Davis (ASUCD), one needed several hundred votes. Six were elected in Fall and six in winter, primarily based on popularity, attractiveness (their pictures were always displayed on the voting webpage, attractive girls never failed to be elected), organizational affiliations, and sometimes even merit (probably only to break a tie in all other factors). ASUCD has always been a two party system. There is "Lead," whose members traditionally have all been ethnic minorities from the various [ethnicity]-studies departments; and "Focus," whose members are all involved in the social Fraternities and sports teams. Focus' goal is to shovel more money into the frats and sports teams, while Lead's goal is to pass resolutions on the situation in Palestine.
ASUCD itself had (in my time) a $9.3 million budget, ran the city buses as well as a number of other business units (radio station, newspaper, largest student-run cafeteria in the country, etc), and so was considered "serious business" by many. Student government itself was a many-headed beast with a separate executive, legislative, & judicial branch. Executive and Legislative each had about half a dozen commissions or comittees under them, totalling probably about 100 people involved in hotly contesting how things should be done.
To be elected you had to be adored for attributes largely irrelevant to actual qualifications. To be placed on a commission or committee, usually considered the best place to position yourself for future election, you generally had to be in with currently elected officials. To get on the Court you had to by sheer luck or devilish craftiness align a rubric's cube of political interests within the Senate to convince enough of them that you are their man (or woman) to get what they want from the court, while simulteniously their opponents DON'T think that. I kind of fell into that category by sheer luck.
I came in on the blood of my predecessor, and always assumed my successor would do the same.
The politics were thick and vicious. You don't know drama until you've known student government. People's jobs are at stake, and they think their futures are too (vis a vis how successful they can claim they were in student government when they write their law school apps). When the cloaks and daggers come to a head it comes to the ASUCD Supreme Court to resolve the issue. Every successful chief justice from other university student government's that I've known has gotten (unsuccessfully) impeached at least once. I've always said you're not doing anything right if you're not getting impeached
I got placed on the Court, I have on good authority, to get rid of me. I'd been the single individual candidate in the previous election -- 6 Lead candidates wearing catsup red, 6 Focus candidates wearing mustard yellow, and myself. They saw me as a rabble rouser so they put me on the Court because it was a powerless body that hadn't even met in more than a year.
It so happened that there was a major case shortly after I joined, however. The Lead-appointed Chief Justice and court majority informed us new Focus appointees that we couldn't sit on the case because we were "too new." I pointed out several places in the bylaws that did not allow her to do this but she simply replied "I am the highest authority on the bylaws and this is how I interpret it." They squashed my dissenting opinion on that case, and refused to hear the case I filed against the Chief Justice, but before the month was out she was up for impeachment over it. She resigned that morning and I, after dissenting on every opinion and been the plaintiff in cases agaisnt the court itself, was appointed Chief Justice in her stead.
My own first impeachment followed a mere two academic months later or so. Focus had realized that wait, though they had liked my dissenting opinion on that last case, they really didn't like having a chief justice that actually ran the court. The vote split along party lines, 7 Focus in favour of impeachment, 4 Lead opposed. If it weren't for the one Focus senator absent I'd have been impeached.
The very next week my second impeachment came. I think President Sara Henry called it the moment she discovered I had a livejournal and sometimes mentioned LJ in it, but at the hearing, though she appeared with what looked like all of it printed out, she couldn't cite a specific example of me violating my impartiality in it. Some giggles could be heard in the audience when she angrily read a damning quote about hersel but had to admit it was a comment someone else had made when a senator pressed her on it. That impeachment failed miserably, with most of her party not even voting for it. My LJ reached a level of local notoriety such that for awhile I'd often overhear totally random people discussing it.
In my third year as Chief Justice, a new political party was formed, "Friends Urging Campus Kindness" (or F.U.C.K. if you will), which ran against the system. Joe average disillusioned student was filled with hope that maybe for once there'd be senators that weren't just looking to buy a ridiculous fire truck to shoot burritos in support of their sports games or condemn Israel for the umpteenth time, but do something for joe average student.
Two Urgers got elected, Sens Roy & Birdsall. Unfortunately, this little chapter in the history of ASUCD ultimately just brought more disillusionment than ever to the student populace -- after filling everyone with hope for Change They Could Believe In, Birdsall and Roy became the biggest apologists for the usual behaviour.
In the next election, three candidates were found to be ineligible for office once the election occurred -- they were on disciplinary probation for drug violations in the dorms, plagiarism, & allegations of date rape, respectively. When Elections Committee Chair Leathers realized they hadn't been weeded out at the proper time, he filed a Court case against HIMSELF to correct the situation. The Court scrambled to meet as fast as possible (considering all relevant notification requirements) to resolve this. Unfortunately we found ourselves one justice short of quorum. The student government advisor tried to tell everyone that the Court had authority to resolve this anyway, but I wouldn't have it. The solution I came up with was that we would hold the hearing as we ordinarily would, make a decision and write our binding opinion, but seal it in a manila envelope until the Senate had a chance to vote to affirm the legitimacy of our one-less-than-quorum meeting. This way it would be routed through all the proper channels and they'd be affirming or denying the legitimacy of our decision under the "veil of ignorance" as to whether it supported or destroyed their personal desired outcomes.
Needless to say the Senate did not approve the legitimacy of the meeting. The decision remained in the manilla envelope.
The Senate then ejected all non-senate personnel from the chambers and held a closed session, at the end of which they had a bill written to retroactively remove the requirement that senate candidates not be on disciplinary probation. Senator Roy claimed this was "the only option" they had.
At the time I did make a list on the whiteboard of some ten things which would solve the problem and "probably be less violative of the ASUCD constitution," which is admittedly getting more involved than I'd have liked, but this was all a bit ridiculous.
Incidentally the closed hearing was later found to be a gross violation of the brown act and invalid, by a legitimately occurring Court case, but the minutes for the closed part could never be found because the minute-taker apparently disappeared.
Chairman Leathers also thought this was ridiculous and refused to certify the election. Without this the Senators technically couldn't be seated, but that technicality didn't seem to daunt the Senate. And so it was that Leathers and I and another justice found ourselves called to Senate for our own impeachment.
I stood up calmly and looked around the room. I did not mention that the Brown Act, which Birdsall accused us of violating, had never been intended to apply to judicial bodies and her interpretation of it was nonsensical. I didn't argue with any of the rest of her rant either, I'd been through this enough times now (and we all knew they could and would read my counter-arguments on my lj).
I read two or three lines from the bylaws that noted how subjects of impeachment are supposed to be notified of their impeachments, noted the several ways she had failed to fulfill the requirements, and ended with "this impeachment cannot take place and must immediately disband," then calmly sat down.
The room was immediately in an uproar as those who had been gunning for the impeachment scrambled to communicate with eachother about what had just happened. The hammering of the gavel brought the confusion to a manageable level and the pro tem announced that they would be moving out of the impeachment and onto the next business.
The next day Roy and Birdsall announced that they were dissolving and leaving the Friends Urging Campus Kindness party. I was never impeached again and to my surprise ended my career not in an impeachment but living to a ripe old political age and only resigning when I graduated.
People still ask me what the opinion in the manila envelope contains. It has never been unsealed since that day, and its contents remain a mystery to all but the court.