2005 Senäts Vacancy Ruling (UC)

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Din el Cort Pü Inalt


In the matter of
THE SENÄTS SEAT OF FRANCESCO FELICI
Petitioner
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Decided
1 December 2005/XXVI

Brief of the ruling
{{{ruling}}}

Opinion of the Court delivered by
Justice Siervicül, Joined by Justice Lauriéir
joined by
Senior Justice Metáiriâ issued a dissent


Opinion

Justice Siervicül delivered the opinion of the Cort:

In this case petitioner John Woolley, Secretary of State of the Kingdom of Talossa, has asked the Cort to advise the Chancery regarding the effect of Article V, Section 5 of the Organic Law on the Senäts seat of Senator Francesco Felici (Cézembre).
Article V, Section 5 of the Organic Law states that a senator "vacates his seats if he fails to vote on two consecutive Clarks, or if he resigns from office, loses his citizenship or dies." Senator Felici failed to vote on the August 2005 Clark, the last Clark of the 34th Cosâ. He also failed to vote on the November 2005 Clark, which was the first Clark of the 35th Cosâ. In between these Clarks his term expired and he was re-elected to the Senäts. The question before the Cort is whether Senator Felici's seat is vacant as a result of his failure to vote on the August 2005 and November 2005 Clarks. We hold that it is not, because Article V, Section 5 of the Organic Law does not apply to a senator who is re-elected to the Senäts in between two failures to vote.
The original intent of the framers of the Organic Law on this point is not clear. On the one hand, the purpose of the provision in question is obviously to force legislators to participate in the business of the Ziu or make way for someone who will. On the other hand, the Organic Law also provides for periodic elections as a means for determining the will of the people regarding who they consider fit representatives - a determination which deserves a substantial degree of deference. Both of these interests - promoting participation in legislative activity and giving full effect to the popular will as expressed in the results of elections - weigh on opposite sides in this case.
In balancing these competing interests, we take note of the fact that the Organic Law repeatedly views the service of senators in the context of "terms." Article IV, Section 10 states that "if a seat becomes vacant during the term of a Senator, the King shall appoint a Senator to fill the remainder of the term." Article V, Section 2 states that "a senator shall never be required to vacate his place during his term of service, due to a change in the qualifications of senators."
Service in the Senäts is therefore not continuous, but is divided into discrete terms. Moreover, there is no distinction in the law between election to the Senäts in the first instance and "re-election" of one who already serves in the Senäts. Each senator is in effect newly made a senator after each election for his or her seat. Just as service in the Senäts does not protect senators from the effect of changes in the qualifications of senators beyond their current term of office, in the same way "strikes" under Article V, Section 5 should not count beyond the term of office in which they are incurred. Once the people choose to return a senator to office, that senator is returned for a new full term of office, the same as any other legislator elected at the same time.
This interpretation is consistent with the text of the Organic Law. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, defines "consecutive" as "[f]ollowing one after another without interruption; successive." In order to give full effect to election results, we consider the completion of one term of office and the beginning of another as the result of an intervening election to be a sufficient "interruption" to reset the count of missed votes under Article V, Section 5. Two Clarks separated by an intervening election are therefore not "consecutive" for any senator whose continuing status in the Senäts is determined by that intervening election.
We hold that a senator who fails to vote on the last Clark of one term of office, and then, after being re-elected, fails to vote on the first Clark of a new term of office, has not failed to vote on "two consecutive Clarks" within the meaning of Article V, Section 5 of the Organic Law, and does not vacate his seat.

Dissent

Senior Justice Metáiriâ, dissenting:

Article V, Section 5 of the Organic Law states that a senator "vacates his seats if he fails to vote on two consecutive Clarks, or if he resigns from office, loses his citizenship or dies."
In my opinion, this article clearly states the ways that a senator loses his seat other than through loss of an election. The meaning of "consecutive" is at issue and I have chosen the easiest and most widely understood interpretation thereof, which is that of events transpiring in a row. An election itself, in my opinion, is not sufficient interruption. If the same senator remains in office after an election there was no interruption save that of a matter of a few weeks.
With essentially a new lease on life after each election, we have a situation whereby a senator can deliberately not vote on the last two Clarks of his term, knowing he will have this expunged from his record immediately following the election should he be returned to office. He could then not vote for the frist two Clarks of the subsequent term without penalty. This would constitute four consecutive months of inactivity which would be lawful and without penalty.
It is my opinion that the scenario expounded upon above was not viewed by the framers of this article as acceptable, just or lawful, and in fact the three month limitation was designed specifically to avoid such a possibility from occuring.