Henry Kissinger once said “University politics are vicious precisely because the stakes are so small.” As I would tell my 21-year-old self if I ever ran into him today, that inverse ratio holds true by several orders of magnitude when it comes to student government. Yvette Felarca was disqualified in a student government election in a squabble over rules; she claimed (with the aid of precedent) constitutional violations and sued, which caused election delays because the government didn’t want to have to count votes twice; the student government changed the rules to give her her seat; the federal court dismissed the lawsuit as moot with leave to refile; and Felarca did just that. Faced with a demand to pay her legal fees of $15,000 or spending more than that defending themselves, the student government capitulated, and Felarca got both her $15,000 to drop the suit and presumably also law-school-application essay material. (Traci Kawaguchi, “ASUC to Settle Suit for $15,000”, Daily Californian, Feb. 11; “Editorial: ASUC-ing Money Away”, Daily Californian, Feb. 15; CalStuff blog, Feb. 12; Tina Nguyen, “Federal Judge Tosses DAAP Lawsuit Against ASUC”, Daily Californian, Nov. 16; Yvette Falarca, “Senator Justifies Lawsuit”, Daily Californian, Aug. 31).
“The president of the United Transportation Union pleaded guilty to a racketeering conspiracy on Thursday, admitting that he solicited bribes from lawyers trying to get access to lucrative legal work for rail workers.” In a scheme that dated back to 1995, Byron Boyd and three other officials of the Cleveland-based union “solicited cash from lawyers who wished to represent injured rail workers in personal injury lawsuits against rail employers. Those are potentially very lucrative suits since there is no limit to legal damages under federal law. … The men got at least $477,000 in cash”. (“Transportation Union Chief Admits to Racketeering”, Reuters, Mar. 12). “U.S. Attorney Michael Shelby said a scheme like the one Boyd was involved in is not uncommon in labor unions and the federal government will continue to investigate such schemes. … The case was handled out of Texas because five of the lawyers that paid money as part of the scheme were from the Houston area and they cooperated with prosecutors, Shelby said.” (Juan Lozano, “Union president pleads guilty to labor racketeering”, AP/Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Mar. 11). Railway workers are covered by the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA), which affords more lucrative recoveries than does workers’ compensation law; they have also been major filers of asbestos claims.