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On Thursday, Nov. 30, 2000, a coalition of 12 student groups and organizations filed a petition with the judiciary of the Student Bar Association of Yeshiva University’s Cardozo School of Law against the SBA senate, executive branch and budget committee, alleging 18 separate violations of the SBA constitution that stem from actions undertaken by the respondents during the 2000-2001 school year. The petition was filed on behalf of the student organizations and the Cardozo student body. 238 students and 14 student organizations, including the 12 named petitioners, signed the petition during two days of signature solicitation before the filing. Among the allegations were repeated failures to admit students to senatorial and budget committee meetings; failure to follow constitutionally required budget procedures; and failure to disclose the nature of the debt spending undertaken by the senate. They petitioners asked the judiciary to launch an investigation into the financial records of the senate and the executive, and to order the student government to disclose all “decisions, rules, regulations, ‘traditions,’ and ‘practices’ of the SBA executive and senate to the entire student body.” Within 24 hours, the petition was dismissed without prejudice, pending the senate’s approval of the procedural rules of the judiciary, which were yet to be written. Chief Justice Horowitz wrote the four-to-one statement. The court did not wait for Justice Moshe Kanovsky to take part in the Dec. 1, 2000 statement. It also did not wait for the senate and the executive to take an official position on the students’ challenge of the student government’s actions. On Jan. 18, 2001, Justice Kanovsky issued a dissent to the tribunal’s dismissal of the petitioners’ complaint. He stated that the hearing of the petition should have been adjourned and not dismissed. As an additional issue related to the matter, when asked whether some of the justices should have abstained from the decision due to their close ties to the SBA president and vice president, Justice Horowitz responded as follows: “Cardozo is a small environment. The justices were approved by the senate. This case is not a personal one, and the court should be expected to act fairly. The rules of procedure should also compensate for any biases. Of course, there may be a situation when a justice should abstain.” The challenge of the student government’s actions came only a month after the senate approved the last member of the judiciary tribunal. The judiciary was formed for the first time in SBA history last fall. Although according to the constitution a judiciary branch must be available to the students at all times, the student government only conformed to this requirement of its constitution last semester. However, even though the petitioners requested a hearing date of Dec. 7, 2000, it took less than 24 hours from filing for the judiciary to dismiss the complaint, sua sponte. On Friday, Dec. 1, 2000, in a statement written and signed by Chief Justice Steven Horowitz, in which Justices Marc Perlman, Martin Beeler and Jaclyn Schneider joined, the judiciary stated that it will not hear any claims or complaints brought by the students until the tribunal’s procedures can be written and approved by the SBA senate. Even though the judiciary was finalized in October 2000, no action was undertaken by the judiciary until January 2001 to draft procedural rules for the tribunal. Chief Justice Horowitz admitted that the court did not anticipate a case to be brought during the current school year, and last month stated that “the judiciary is currently unavailable to the students.” “But, I am confident,” he added, “that the senate will approve the rules of procedure shortly, and the judiciary will be made available.” Nevertheless, most of the senators and executive officers were fully aware of the petition at least two days before it was officially served on the SBA, because signature solicitation by the petitioners was performed openly around the school. Since the last day of classes for the fall 2000 semester was Thursday, Dec. 7, 2000, Chief Justice Horowitz stated that the court did not have time to wait a few more days for the fifth justice to take part in the December 1 decision or to give the student government time to respond. “It was the end of the semester,” Horowitz stated. “Since exams were approaching, the justices only had time to meet that day.” When asked why the court decided to interpret the constitutional guarantee of jurisdiction to the judiciary to be subject to the senate’s approval of the court’s procedural rules, Justice Horowitz responded, “The tribunal cannot act without the senate’s approval of procedures. Our legitimacy would be questioned by the student government.” Justice Kanovsky wrote the sole dissent on the matter, writing that the court has jurisdiction over the subject matter of constitutional issues of the complaint; that the tribunal cannot avoid its duty to the students; and that the constitutionally guaranteed forum of the judiciary is not subject to the court’s lack of senate-approved procedural rules. “I find it peculiar,” stated Kanovsky, “that the only thing we can do this year is tell the students that we cannot help them. We’re supposed to be helping the students. Otherwise, I don’t understand what the purpose of the judiciary is. It’s a sad state of affairs when students have no one to go to.” After Kanovsky’s dissent was issued to the chief justice, Horowitz explained to Kanovsky that his dissent is barred from publication due to the fact that the fifth justice was not available for the original decision. The chief justice’s position was that Kanovsky could not dissent when he was not present during the deliberations of the court’s Dec. 1 statement. As a result of his conversation with the chief justice, Kanovsky did not retract the dissent, but rather asked that it be classified as “unofficial.”

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