Date: Dec 4, 2006 4:04 PM
Subject: more details on court proceedings & decision
Here is a more detailed summary of the court proceedings and the judge's decision.
The petition filed in Supreme Court regarding the validity of the resolutions passed at SFSS Special General Meeting (SGM) was heard on November 30 and Dec 1, and the judge's decision was delivered on December 4.
November 30 began with Don Crane giving his arguments on behalf of the Petitioners (the Directors impeached at the SGM). In the afternoon session, Susan Coristine presented arguments on behalf of Respondent Jan Gunn and interested parties, including remaining Directors Andrea Sandau, Joel Blok, Ben Milne, Ivy So, Heather Ball and Melody Li, and Forum Reps Adam Lein, Deena Rubuliak and Amy Homan. The judge asked a lot of questions to both Don Crane and Susan Coristine.
Susan continued her arguments on Friday Dec 1, and was followed by Ulf Ottho, representing Respondents Titus Gregory and Bryan Jones, and interested party Michael Letourneau. Don Crane was then given an opportunity to reply to the arguments of the Respondents before the court was adjourned to await a decision from the judge. On this day, the judge had few questions for Coristine and Ottho, however he asked Crane a large number of questions about his legal arguments. In particular the judge objected to Don's characterization of Forum "usurping" the powers of the Board, and that his characterization of the SGM as a "mob of students" (although Crane had quickly retracted the "mob" reference). There was a bit of a buzz at the end of the lunch break, when the three lawyers were informed that Wei Li had presented SFSS staff with a memo stating that they are not to assist with the by-election. This memo had halted the hiring of polling clerks for the by-election that was supposed to occur that day (students had stood in line for a long time to apply for these positions). Crane apparently spoke to Wei Li on the phone during the afternoon break in order to secure his pledge to retract the memo and stop interfering with the By-election. The judge asked whether an injunction was required, but Ottho said that the three lawyers were satisfied with Mr. Crane's full assurance that none of the Petitioners (impeached Directors) would interfere with the By-election in any manner having been stated for the court record. However, despite Crane's assurance, by 5 pm Wei had not retracted his memo to the staff.
In total, the arguments of the two sides took 9 hours. On both Thursday and Friday, there were approximately 20 supporters present for the Respondents, while the other side of the room remained empty except for Margo Dunnet, who attended on behalf of the Petitioners.
For the ruling on Monday there were approximately 20 supporters for the Respondents, but none of the Petitioners were there. The judge began by saying that there were three main questions before him to decide upon:
1) Was the Forum meeting held on September 27, 2006 – at which the SGM was called - invalid due to Glyn Lewis' purported cancellation?
The Judge first stated that past practice within the Student Society with regard to the cancellation of Forum meeting was, in his view, not determinative. He stated that the fact that Forum meetings had been "cancelled" in the past was not relevant to this case because they had not been legally cancelled but were properly viewed as having not occurred as no one showed up, and therefore quorum was not achieved. The Judge said that Glyn Lewis had no legal authority to cancel the Forum meeting, and that the evidence suggests that Lewis' real motivation to cancel the meeting was to frustrate the process that would lead to his impeachment. The Judge continued that if people were confused as to whether or not to attend the Forum meeting (as was one of the arguments made by Don Crane), this confusion was caused by the actions of Mr. Lewis and therefore the Petitioners could not take advantage of it to support their argument.
2) Was quorum met at this meeting?
The issue of quorum hinged on whether Forum reps who have handed in their resignations before their meeting need to have them ratified before they become effective. Don Crane argued that Forum had to ratify all resignations, and therefore only 15 out of 30 members were present at the Forum meeting of Sept 27th – not enough for quorum. The Respondents had stated that resignations did not need to be ratified. Therefore, with 2 resignations having been received before the meeting, there were only 28 members of Forum such that the 15 reps present did make a quorum. The Judge ruled that our by-laws and policies do not require ratification of resignations by Forum members, and that the Forum meeting of September 27 met quorum and was valid.
3) Should the court use its power to set aside irregularities when it's in the best interest of the Society to uphold the resolutions of the SGM (if irregularities are found re: points 1 & 2 above)?
The Respondents had asked that if the Forum meeting was found to have irregularities (i.e., non-quorate or due to the purported cancellation), that the court use its power to uphold the resolutions passed at the SGM anyway. The Judge stated that this was unnecessary because there were no irregularities with the Forum meeting of Sept 27th. He said, however, if he had found the Forum meeting to be invalid, he would have upheld the SGM, as the Respondents requested. The Judge noted that the Petitioners had used every strategy they could devise to frustrate the members from holding an SGM. In particular, he pointed out that the President should have called an SGM due to having received a petition signed by 9.8 % of the membership, as the By-laws only require 5% and are not in conflict with the Society Act as had been argued by the Petitioners.
The Judge then dismissed the Petition. The Respondents were awarded costs, which will be levied against the Petitioners as individuals (not against the Society).
The Judge's decision was more detailed, and will likely be available soon on the Forum website www.studentunion.ca/forum/lawsuit.html (where all documents relating to this case can be found).