Student Government Elections Commission: The Court for Student Campaign Violations

During the fall semester of my 1L year I saw a posting in one of the bi-weekly Florida State Law Student Announcements requesting applications from College of Law students interested in serving on the Florida State University Student Government Association (SGA) Elections Commission. After serving as a member of the Florida State University Residence Life Conduct Board as an undergraduate, this type of activity appealed to me. After sending in my resume, taking a test on the SGA Election Code and Bylaws, and being briefed on the process, I was ready to go.

The Elections Commission is composed of a Florida State University student serving as the Supervisor of Elections and six College of Law Students who serve as the Elections Commission panel. The responsibility of the Commission panel is to meet weekly for 1 to 2 hours to hear complaints brought by the Supervisor of Elections against specific student political parties, individual party members, or independent candidates. After hearing arguments from each side, the Elections Commission publicly deliberates and makes a ruling in each case. After a ruling is handed down, the Commission then proceeds to the sentencing phase which consists of tabulating the consequences of the violation(s) and determining if an action is warranted. Typically, there is a fine, but some cases can result in candidate disqualification. The Elections Commission is then required to file their opinion within 24 hours of the decision. If the party involved is dissatisfied with the outcome, they may appeal the decision to the Student Supreme Court (also composed of College of Law students).

When I arrived at my first hearing, I did not know what to expect. Complaints are e-mailed to Commissions panel members prior to a hearing, and I had so many questions even before the hearing started. Both parties stated their case and then Commission deliberations began. It was intriguing to hear all of the different opinions of the Commission members and to share mine as well. While it appeared to be an open and shut case, each member still wanted to make sure we were making the right decision and that the decision was supported by the facts. After coming to a decision, tabulating the sanctions for the violation, and handing down our decision, the losing party informed us that they would be appealing the decision. After the hearing was over I knew that I found an activity that was right for me.

Serving on the Elections Commission seems very much like serving as a judge in a court and much of our work involves the same type of experiences we are having as law students—reading opinions, analyzing and dissecting them, and making a ruling. We also have the responsibility to help guide the Student Senate and Supreme Court in amending SGA laws to clarify the law and close apparent loopholes. Our decisions are unbiased and thoughtful and we are well aware of the underlying reality that they have consequences. If Commission actions are incorrect or if we fail in some way to articulate the reasons for our decisions fully, they can be overturned by the Student Supreme Court.

I feel that the Commission’s decisions help ensure the neutrality and fairness in student government elections for all students. Participating will hone critical thinking, analysis, and legal writing skills. It provides an opportunity to be a part of the judicial branch of the Florida State University Student Government Association and is a unique opportunity only afforded to College of Law students. It is also one of the only activities of its type that law students can participate in during the fall semester of their 1L year. I am now in my second year on the Commission and encourage any College of Law student interested in serving to give it a try.

?????????????????????????????????????????? Shelby Loveless, 2L

Summers Are a Great Time to Explore Areas of Law

Upon entering law school I was very blessed to have already had a good amount of prior legal experience. I had several political internships as an undergraduate at Florida State University, and worked for one of the top law firms in Tallahassee. Although I had acquired some great experience, I was still unsure which specific area of law I wanted to pursue. Following my 1L year, I was advised by the Placement Office to take the summer and explore my options.

I decided to spend my summer working in two very different areas of the law in an attempt to narrow down my areas of interest. For the first part of the summer, I spent my time working for local government and working mostly on civil law cases. I was able to experience a large array of cases in the areas of labor and employment law, workers compensation, environmental and land use law, and personal injury law.

The second part of my summer I chose to work in the area of criminal law. I experienced high profile murder cases, cases related to gang violence and drug trafficking, and even got to see the autopsy of a victim. In addition to getting some great experience, I gained two credits through the school for one of the internships and was able to use the other to fulfill my College of Law pro bono requirement.

After returning to school in August, I realized that my passion was in procedural law and regulation. Based on this decision, I focused my class schedule around the core classes that I believed would help to further my knowledge in this area. I chose to take Evidence to understand the discovery process and to help strengthen my litigation skills. I also chose Administrative Law, which has proven to be very helpful in increasing my knowledge in this area.

Although I am incredibly happy with the classes I chose to help me achieve my career goals, the College of Law has such a wide variety of interesting topics that it is hard to focus on just one specific area. Keeping this in mind, I decided to take some courses just for fun as well. Entertainment Law served this purpose and participating in this class was a great experience.

In pursuing a job for the summer following my 2L year, I turned to our On Campus Interview (OCI) program through the Placement Office. The OCI program is an opportunity for you to interview with firms from all over the region. Through the contacts I had made while participating in the program, I found an opportunity with a law firm here in Tallahassee, Florida.

The firm I worked for focuses on gambling law and pari-mutuel wagering, which is a hot topic for the state of Florida. I was able to focus my work towards the regulatory side, specifically participating in rule challenges and working with the agency to further our client’s interests.

There are many avenues to travel down during your time in law school. Florida State University College of Law has helped to foster my ideas and passions and I am confident that this support and stability will help push me forward in the future.

?????????????????????????????????????????? Rebecca Arends, 3L

My Transfer Experience: Simple, Straight-Forward, and Seamless

For any prospective law student who is interested in Florida State University College of Law, but for one reason or another will begin their law school journey somewhere else, do not give up. When it came time for me to apply to law school, I felt that my chances at getting into a law school ranked in the top 50 were limited. My grades were fine, but I had some difficulty with the LSAT, despite taking it three times. So, in my case, I was happy just to get into any law school.

I started at a small, private law school and was immediately stunned by the amount of work I was assigned. Despite this, I worked very hard and when I received my grades I was happy to see that my efforts had paid off. Halfway through the second semester of my 1L year I started to seriously consider transferring and started researching schools. I knew about Florida State’s great reputation, and as I looked closer, I was immediately impressed with the College of Law’s employment numbers, faculty, and facilities. I contacted the Office of Admissions, and the more I learned, the more I felt this was the right place for me.

The Office of Admissions staff explained how the transfer process works, what I needed to do to apply, and they provided me with clear instructions, checklists, and deadlines to make the process as smooth as possible. I was surprised at how simple it was. Coming from out-of-state, I was also pleased to learn that I could also be reclassified as a Florida resident for tuition purposes after one year and the Office of Admissions provided me with instructions for this process as well.

I finished my 1L year and decided to apply as a transfer student to Florida State. I was thrilled when the Office of Admissions called me to tell me that I had been admitted. A few days later I visited the College of Law, made my decision to transfer, found an apartment, and started to make my plans to relocate to Tallahassee, Florida.

The transfer process during my first semester at Florida State was seamless. The College of Law does a great job making transfer students feel at home and gives us every chance to succeed. This includes the opportunity to compete for positions on journals and the Mock Trial and Moot Court teams. Not all law schools offer these types of opportunities to transfer students. There were also numerous student organizations for student involvement, more than at many other law schools. I immediately joined the Transfer Student Organization, and met other students with similar situations to mine.

Now that I have graduated, I consider my transfer to the College of Law to be the best decision I could have made for myself and could not be happier with my experience. I received an excellent education, and will always be grateful for having been given this opportunity. I encourage all who are interested in Florida State University College of Law, including potential transfer students, to give it a serious look. For those students who may be starting at another law school, know that it does not have to be the end of the road!

??????????????????????????????????????????  Wil Sinor, Class of 2014, Attorney with Jemison & Mendelsohn in Montgomery, Alabama