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UJC expands list of possible trial chairs, clarifies bylaws

In an effort to clarify procedural questions which arose during the Kory v. Smith, Kintz and Tigrett case last spring, the University Judiciary Committee unanimously passed a bylaw Sunday night which allows any Committee representative to chair a trial.

Before the change, nothing in the bylaws specified who could or could not chair trials, but traditionally only vice chairpersons and the Committee chairman have served as trial chairs.

"The bylaws are sort of vague in this area," UJC Chairman Brian Hudak said. "Before, it was left to the discretion of the [Committee] chairman."

The bylaw is part of the UJC's effort to clarify its procedures, Hudak said.

We want to "try to address all circumstances which may come along," he said. "It was just something we wanted to have in writing for future Committees."

The bylaw stipulates this new measure will be used only when all vice chairpersons are ineligible to chair a trial for reasons of bias.

A potential trial chair would be considered biased if they had worked on the case in any capacity before the trial.

For example, the Committee had to ask William W. Harmon, vice president for student affairs, to adjudicate the Kory v. Smith, et. al. case last year after all members of the Executive Committee recused themselves from the case because of bias.

Harmon appointed a four-person panel to recommend sanctions in the case to University President John T. Casteen III. Casteen later suspended Smith for two years, Tigrett for one year and Kintz for one semester.

If all the vice chairpersons are biased, the Executive Committee will select and train another judge to serve as the trial chair.

Very rarely are all vice chairs unable to serve because of bias, Hudak said.

Before the clarification offered by the new bylaw, judges who are not members of the Executive Committee technically could chair trials at the chairman's discretion, UJC Senior Educator Lissa Percopo said.

Although it does outline who can chair trials, the new bylaw still leaves some questions about who will train new trial chairs.

"That decision will be left up to the Executive Committee" in the future, Percopo said.