Student court hears arguments as battle begins

Student justices Daniel Pellegrin, Cody Coll, William Stober and Josh Conatser hear opening arguments and witness testimonies for McCahill, Hardy v. Kinghorn on Tuesday in Courtroom 127 of Baylor Law School.  Kevin Freeman | Lariat Photographer
Student justices Daniel Pellegrin, Cody Coll, William Stover and Josh Conatser hear opening arguments and witness testimonies for McCahill, Hardy v. Kinghorn on Tuesday in Courtroom 127 of Baylor Law School.
Kevin Freeman | Lariat Photographer

By Hannah Neumann
Staff Writer

The Baylor University Student Court began its hearing of the McCahill, Hardy v. Kinghorn lawsuit Tuesday, in courtroom 127 of the Law School.

Baylor senators Woodinville, Wash., senior Gannon McCahill and San Antonio junior Chase Hardy filed suit against Katy junior Lawren Kinghorn, internal vice president, alleging the defendant violated obligations required of her and failed to maintain positional duties.

Roswell, N.M., junior Cody Coll serves as the Chief Justice, with Daniel Pellegrin as Deputy Chief Justice. Associate Justices Nathan Hall, Courtney Davis, William Stover, Josh Conatser and Moriah Speciale also served on Tuesday’s bench.

The evening began with an opening statement by sophmore Elliott Riches, the plaintiff’s attorney, on the topic of standards.

“As members of society there are always standards we have to uphold, and that are valued in our society,” he said. “However, we hold a higher standard towards people who have been elected to office, and an even higher standard to those who are placed at the top and are in the most important positions.”

He said the defendant used both a double standard in regards to McCahill and violated standards within the senate by-laws as well as the student body constitution.

It was presented to the court that in November 2014, McCahill was informed by Kinghorn that his presence would be required at the next Senator Executive Council hearing, where a discussion would take place regarding the absences accumulated by McCahill.

“After this meeting, the SEC voted and Kinghorn informed senator McCahill that he had been asked to resign from the student senate,” he said because of the fact that McCahill had 10 unexcused absences, which McCahill disputed, as he only had 8.

He said the SEC at time of voting, had false information regarding McCahill.

“Other senators in a similar situation being over the correct number of absences were not asked to resign, and had little to no sanctions placed against them,” he said.

The plaintiff’s attorney said the impeachment hearings for McCahill were done incorrectly, and strayed from the typical agenda and standards of such hearings, and that all of the former statements were factors in the improper and unconventional treatment he received during the process, including him being stripped of his right to vote as he was inappropriately labeled as “not in good standing.”

Secondly, the council for the plaintiff said when senator Hardy asked the legislative secretary, Gilbert Ruiz, for copies of documents usually accessible to senators, and was told by the defendant that he needed to provide reasoning for hoping to obtain the records. The plaintiff’s attorney said this was just one of many cases in which the defendant failed to uphold standards.

Granbury senior Stefanie Mundhenk, the council for the defense, said in her opening statement that the plaintiffs in the case were simply seeking revenge, they felt they had been wronged.

“Senator McCahill wrote a bill that he hoped would allow students to carry a concealed handgun on campus,” she said.

After the bill failed to win the necessary votes in the student senate, she said McCahill felt wronged for the first time. Mundhenk said the second time came when the SEC voted for, but did not approve, his impeachment because of excessive absences. She said McCahill and Hardy have worked over the past year to ensure members of their fraternity, Alpha Tau Omega, became part of student government.

“Twenty-two members of Alpha Tau Omega, following the urgings of Hardy, joined senate last year,” Mundhenk said. “With the main goal of wielding their power to allocate student government funds to greek life.”

She said after the concealed carry bill failed to pass and the plaintiffs realized they could not secure extra funding, half of the fraternity members dropped out of senate.

“As internal vice president, Kinghorn presides over the senate and serves as head of the senate executive council, making her the perfect target for retaliation,” Mundhenk said. “But the law does not tolerate revenge, and throughout trial this week, you will see that that’s all their charges are.”

During the hearing, a Lariat photographer was banned and was instructed to delete photos he had already taken, by chief justice Cody Coll, under the claim that he was violating the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, known as FERPA. The Lariat contacted an attorney from student press law center who said the photographer was not violating FERPA.

“Even if y’all wanted to violate FERPA, you couldn’t because you’re not an agent of the University,” said Adam Goldstein, attorney advocate for the Student Press Law Center.

Goldstein said since the release of educational records did not pertain to the case and had nothing to with the photos being taken by the photographer, no violations of FERPA had occurred.

The court continued to hear the witness testimonies of Blake Hannas, Rachael Larson and Chase Hardy and ended in a recess to resume tonight at 7 p.m.

Previously, this article misidentified Fair Oaks Ranch junior Alex Oestreich as the plaintiffs’ attorney. McCahill and Hardy are instead represented by sophmore Elliott Riches.