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The Daily Tar Heel

Get them a lawyer: Plaintiff’s council would help ensure due process

The Student Supreme Court needs an appointed plaintiff’s counsel position to ensure fairer and more effective procedures.

This would give people who sue student government greater access — if they so choose — to representation by an individual who has an understanding of the Student Code and the process of suing in the Student Supreme Court.

The court hears suits brought against student government. The solicitor general, a position appointed by the student body vice president, represents student government in these suits.

Students can read the Code and study procedures. But they are still at a disadvantage against a solicitor general who is likely more knowledgeable, experienced and often a law student trained in argumentation.

“That knowledge, combined with several years of law school, is a huge challenge for undergraduates to rise to, especially within the 96 hour turnaround period for each step in the process,” said Taylor Holgate, who recently sued the Board of Elections in the Student Supreme Court, challenging the results of her race for Student Congress.

In spite of this, plaintiffs are burdened by having to find their own counsel — preferably one who understands the Code and who can argue their case well. This model reflects the American legal system, which requires that plaintiffs retain their own counsel.

But the world is flush with lawyers to represent people. UNC is not flush with individuals who have a solid understanding of the Code and the process of suing in the Student Supreme Court.

It is because of the exceptional nature of the burden placed on students suing student government that a plaintiff’s counsel is justified.

Students should be aware of the Code, but more importantly, the institutional structure should encourage smooth trials and fair rulings.

A plaintiff’s counsel accomplishes this. It ensures that both sides are adequately prepared to argue their case, making the job of the justices that much easier.

Obviously, no one should be forced to accept the representation of a plaintiff’s counsel. And if the position is created, it would have to be filled by someone with no other connection to student government to avoid a conflict of interest.

But having the position would provide plaintiffs with a more equitable footing on which to argue the merits of their case.

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