ASSU Constitutional Council

General Information

Membership

  • Chair (2016-2017): Jonathan York (jyork@stanford.edu)

  • Members: Tara Balakrishnan, Brian Baran, Ken-Ben Chao, Debnil Sur

Pending Cases

The Council does not have any pending cases.

Calendar

Coming soon.

Past Cases

An archive of past cases is coming soon.

Filing a Case

Cases We Hear: The Council hears cases alleging a violation of the ASSU Constitution or bylaws enacted under the authority of the ASSU Constitution. See ASSU Const. art. IV, § 2(A); Randolph v. Undergraduate Senate, slip op. at 6-7 (2017).

Preparing a Petition: Cases begin with a petition explaining the relevant facts and legal arguments. Please consult the "Overview of the Constitutional Council Process" section below for guidelines on preparing your petition. Petitioners often find it helpful to consult examples from past cases as well.

The Council recommends but does not require that petitioners use this template.

Please contact the Chair with any questions about how to prepare a petition.

Submitting a Petition: Please submit petitions to the Chair at jyork@stanford.edu.

Overview of the Constitutional Council Process

Prehearing

Step 1: Petitioner submits case. The Chair of the Council forwards the petition to the parties and their representatives, any students or entities the Chair knows to have a substantial interest in the outcome of the case, the ASSU Executive, and the Stanford Daily.

Step 2: Within seven days (excluding breaks), the Council evaluates the petition and votes on whether it is frivolous. If a majority deem it frivolous, the case is dismissed. This process is conducted at an informal meeting or via email. It is not subject to the 72-hour public announcement requirement, nor are parties permitted to present argument or participate.

Step 3: If the case is not frivolous, the Chair schedules a hearing. The scheduling notice must be issued within seven days of the Council’s receipt of the petition. The hearing must take place within ten days of the notice. The hearing will be publicly announced at least 72 hours in advance.

Step 4: Respondent prepares a written brief to the Council presenting its argument for its position. Other interested members of the ASSU may submit amicus briefs for the Council to review at its discretion. The Council will set a deadline for written briefing, which will generally be 48 hours prior to the hearing.

Guidelines for Petitions and Written Briefs

Parties’ written submissions to the Council should contain a thorough but concise statement of the relevant facts and legal arguments. Parties should prepare their submissions with the understanding that the briefing will be the Council’s primary source of information in making its decision and thus the parties’ primary opportunity to persuade the Council.

The Council expects parties and amici to cite relevant authority and submit factual information as appendices. Anyone making a written submission owes a duty of candor to the Council.

Templates: The Council has prepared the following templates for written submissions. It recommends but does not require their use:

Hearing Format

The hearing is intended to provide the Council with an opportunity to ask questions and probe the parties’ arguments. Parties should approach the hearing with the understanding that the Council will have read the written briefing and familiarized itself with the facts and arguments. Thus, parties should focus on resolving Council members’ questions and concerns rather than rehashing what they have presented in writing.

Representatives: While parties are welcome to have multiple representatives at the hearing, the Council encourages each party to select a single representative to present the case. Oral arguments tend to be more effective and efficient when they are not divided among multiple representatives.

Amici: Amici may observe the hearing as members of the public. Amici may not present argument or participate in the question-and-answer portion of the hearing without receiving advance permission from the Council. Amici who wish to participate may submit a written request to the Chair no less than 48 hours prior to the hearing. Such requests will be granted only when a majority of the Council finds that the amicus’s presentation would be especially helpful in resolving the case. For example, the Council will typically grant a request from an ASSU governing body with a concrete interest in the case.

Structure and Timing: The hearing will follow the below structure and default timing. When scheduling a hearing, the Council may adjust the timing to meet the needs of the case at hand. The Council retains discretion to grant additional time as necessary during the hearing.

Opening Statements: The petitioner and respondent—in that order—will each have two minutes to make an uninterrupted opening statement. Parties should take this opportunity to summarize their position and to direct the Council’s attention to the points they believe are most important to resolving the case.

First Round of Questioning: The Council will next engage in a question-and-answer session with the representatives. The Council will conduct a full round of questioning with petitioner before questioning respondent. Each party will have 10 minutes of response time in this round, to be allocated as follows:

·         After each question from the Council, the representative will have 30 uninterrupted seconds to respond.

·         The questioning member may grant an additional 30 seconds at her discretion.

·         Council members’ questions are not timed.

Representatives can most effectively aid the Council by providing answers that are responsive to the questions posed. For example, many questions call for a yes-or-no answer. Given the time limit, the most effective responses to such questions usually begin with a clear answer—“Yes,” “No,” or “It depends”—and proceed to explain it as necessary. Representatives should not feel the need to fill the full 30 seconds for each response; this is not the time for representatives to repeat their talking points. (Time not used is retained for additional questions.)

If, at the conclusion of the 30-second response time, the representative has not provided a responsive answer, the Council will clarify the question and offer another 30-second opportunity to answer it. Representatives who are continually nonresponsive may, after adequate warning, be found to have forfeited some or all of their remaining time.

Second Round of Questioning: If, after completing the first round, Council members have additional questions, the Council will conduct a second round of questioning. This round will proceed in the same way as the first except that each side will be limited to 5 minutes of response time.

Closing Statements: At the conclusion of questioning, each side will have three uninterrupted minutes to make a closing statement. The petitioner will speak first and may reserve up to one minute for rebuttal. Parties should make any final points at this time; this will be their final opportunity to persuade the Council.

Deliberations and Opinion

Step 1: Following the hearing, the Council meets within seven days to deliberate, vote, and select a member to draft the opinion.

Conduct During Deliberations: While the ASSU Constitution requires deliberations to be conducted at an open meeting, only Council members may participate. Other members of the ASSU may silently observe. The Council may remove observers who disrupt or attempt to influence the deliberations.

Step 2: The Council completes its opinion and makes it electronically available within seven and ten days of its deliberations, respectively.