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The Daily Tar Heel

Student Congress asks for legal aid

The rules and judiciary committee of Student Congress passed a bill Tuesday that would provide students legal representation in front of the Student Supreme Court.

The revision to Title III of the Student Code would create a student legal counsel service and provide students with representation before the court.

Seven members voted in favor of the proposal, five voted against it and two abstained. It will be presented before the full body next week.

“Currently, if someone launches a complaint against you, you essentially have to just show up and answer questions,” said Zach De La Rosa, speaker of Student Congress.

Concern that the current Student Code violates the Fifth Amendment spurred the proposal.

“Even in the United States Constitution and court system, you’re not obligated to incriminate yourself,” said Charlotte Lindemanis, editor-in-chief of the Undergraduate Law Journal.

“The way (Student Congress’) court system is set up now requires you to plead either guilty or not guilty.”

Under the revised bill, a student legal counsel, comprised of a chief officer and several legal deputy officers, would provide the option for students to have representation when defending their case.

“A legal team gives us more resources and representation, which is exactly what we want,” said Paige Comparato, vice chairwoman of the committee.

Students who have to present a civil case before the Student Supreme Court would be given the option to either accept or reject assistance from the legal counsel.

“If we can give students the ability to seek counsel, I think it would be a great thing to implement as soon as possible,” De La Rosa said.

The bill would also implement a regulation in which the chief justice of the court would no longer have the ability to unilaterally determine the standing of a case.

If the bill is passed by full congress, a majority opinion of the court will be required to determine whether trials will move forward.

“I think all of these changes are good, and they will make student government more responsive and responsible to the student body,” De La Rosa said.

Lindemanis reviewed the original document before the revised version was proposed.

“After reading over Title III, it seemed that there were a number of sweeping errors,” Lindemanis said.

“The idea behind this is to make the process more democratic and transparent for students.”

Contact the University Editor at university@dailytarheel.com.

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