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1 Corinna Cohn

cohnc@unr.nevada.edu
2

5 IN THE JUDICIAL COUNCIL OF THE ASSOCIATED STUDENTS

7 CORINNA COHN (for herself and members ) Case No.: AN-002


)
8 of the Association collectively), ) COMPLAINT FOR DECLARATORY AND
) INJUNCTIVE RELIEF
9 Petitioner, )
) VIOLATIONS OF SECTION 6(a)(2) of
10 vs. ) ASUN PUBLIC LAW 75–51 and NRS
) 241.020(2)(c)(1)
11 PRISCILLA ACOSTA (in her official capacity)
) (Clear and Complete Agenda Requirement)
12 as Speaker of the 76th Senate of the )
)
13 Associated Students), GRACIE GEREMIA, )
)
14 (in her official capacity as Speaker of the 77th )
)
15 Senate of the Associated Students, SENATE )
)
16 OF THE ASSOCIATED STUDENTS, )
)
17 Respondents )
)
18

19 Petitioner complains and alleges as follows:

20 JURISDICTION AND VENUE

21 Jurisdiction in the Judicial Council of the Associated Students is proper under Article

22 IV, section 4 of the Constitution of the Associated Students. The Judicial Council is the sole

23 judicial body of the Associated Students.

24 ///

25 ///

COMPLAINT FOR DECLARATORY AND INJUNCTIVE RELIEF


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1 GENERAL ALLEGATIONS

2 The Parties

3 At all times relevant to this complaint:

4 1. Petitioner is a member of the Associated Students of the University of

5 Nevada, within the meaning of Art. I, sec. 1(a) of the Constitution of the Associated

6 Students.

7 2. Priscilla Acosta was the duly elected Speaker of the Senate of the Associated

8 Students at the Seventy-Sixth Session. She was the presiding officer of the Senate and its

9 elected leader. Her term ended at midnight on April 15, 2009.

10 3. Gracie Geremia is the duly elected Speaker of the Senate of the Associated

11 Students at the Seventy-Seventh Session. She is the presiding officer of the Senate and its

12 elected leader. She took office on April 15, 2009.

13 4. The Senate of the Associated Students is the legislative branch of the

14 Associated Students, established under Article II of the ASUN Constitution. The Senate is

15 sued in its collective capacity because it has an obligation to ensure it is adhering to proper

16 process in conducting its business.

17 Background Information

18 5. The public bodies of the Associated Students are subject to the provisions of

19 the Open Meeting Law (Chapter 241 of the Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS)). NRS 241.038

20 states “The Board of Regents of the University of Nevada shall establish for the student

21 governments within the Nevada System of Higher Education requirements equivalent to

22 those of this chapter and shall provide for their enforcement.” In carrying out its statutory

23 obligation, the Board of Regents adopted regulations governing the meetings of student

24 governments, carried at Title 4, Board of Regents Handbook, Chapter 20, Part B, section 3.

25 Specifically, the policy states, after setting out a recital that the policy is enacted pursuant to

COMPLAINT FOR DECLARATORY AND INJUNCTIVE RELIEF


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1 NRS 241.038 and applies to each student government recognized by the Board of Regents,

2 that “[t]he meetings of any multi-member…legislative body…of a student government shall

3 be held in accordance with the provisions of the Nevada Open Meeting Law, Chapter 241 of

4 the Nevada Revised Statutes, as amended.”

5 6. The Board of Regents’ recognition of the Associated Students, as established

6 under its Constitution, is evidenced by the publication of the ASUN Constitution at Chapter

7 16 of Title 5, Board of Regents Handbook. It is without dispute that ASUN is recognized by

8 the Regents.

9 7. The Senate of the Associated Students is a multi-member legislative body of

10 the ASUN. Article II of the ASUN Constitution establishes and provides for the legislative

11 branch of the Association. “The legislative power of the Association shall be vested in a

12 Senate of the Associated Students” (Art. II, sec. 1). Further, the Senate is composed of 22

13 members (ASUN Const. Art. II, sec. 1(a)). Therefore, the Senate meets the definition of

14 being a multi-member legislative body of a student government.

15 8. For the purposes of this complaint, the provisions of the Nevada Open

16 Meeting Law (OML) are made directly actionable under the judicial power of the Associated

17 Students by virtue of section 6(a)(2) of the ASUN Public Records, Transparency, and

18 Accountability Act of 2008 (ASUN Public Law 75–51; 75 ASUN Stat. 131), which provides

19 “(a) The presiding officer of a public body under the jurisdiction of the Associated

20 Students… (2) shall publish and post agendas in accordance with the Nevada Open Meeting

21 Law.”

22 9. NRS 241.020(2)(c)(1) requires that agendas contain “[a] clear and complete

23 statement of the topics scheduled to be considered during the meeting.”

24 Facts of the Case

25 10. The 76th Session of the Senate of the Associated Students met 86 times based

COMPLAINT FOR DECLARATORY AND INJUNCTIVE RELIEF


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1 on a review of the agendas posted on the website of the Associated Students

2 (www.asun.unr.edu), under Senate meetings. The 77th Session has met 4 times. As a

3 representative example of the type of conduct complained against in this case, the Senate

4 noticed a meeting on November 19, 2008 (see attached exhibit). During that meeting, under

5 agenda item 18, the Senate was scheduled to consider “b. S.B. 76-__ Revisions to the ASUN

6 Budget” and “c. S.B. 76-__ Expenditures from the ASUN Capital Account.” All specific

7 agenda items complained against are listed in an attached schedule (Exhibit). All violate the

8 same provision of the law, but each violation may fall into separate categories of reason.

9 First Cause of Action

10 Declaratory Relief

11 Violation of Section 6(a)(2) of ASUN Public Law 75–51, NRS 241.020(2)(c)(1)

12 11. Plaintiff repeats and realleges each and every allegation contained within

13 paragraphs 1 through 10 as though fully incorporated herein.

14 12. NRS 241.020(2)(c)(1) requires that agendas contain “[a] clear and complete

15 statement of the topics scheduled to be considered during the meeting.”

16 13. The Nevada Attorney General’s Office has published a handbook consisting

17 of guidance to public bodies within the state on complying with the provisions of the OML.

18 The Attorney General’s Office is authorized under the OML to issue advisory opinions with

19 respect to the enforcement of the law. In so doing, the Office has opined many times on the

20 clear and complete agenda requirement. In the Office’s Open Meeting Law Manual, the

21 following advice is given:

22 The following guidelines are gleaned from … opinions [on the clear and
complete agenda requirement]:
23 …
c. Agenda items must be described with clear and complete detail so that the
24 public will receive notice in fact of what is to be discussed by the public
body.
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COMPLAINT FOR DECLARATORY AND INJUNCTIVE RELIEF


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1 d. Use a standard of reasonableness in preparing the agenda and keep in
mind the spirit and purpose of the Open Meeting Law.
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e. Always keep in mind the purpose of the agenda is to give the public
3 notice of what its government is doing, has done, or may do.

4 h. An agenda must never be drafted with the intent of creating confusion or
uncertainty as to the items to be considered or for the purpose of concealing
5 any matter from receiving public notice.

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Additionally, based on some of the complaints received by the Office of the
7 Attorney General, the following suggestions are offered:

8 c. Agenda descriptions for resolutions, ordinances, regulations, statutes,
rules or other such items to be considered by public bodies should describe
9 what the statute, ordinance, regulation, resolution, or rule relates to so that
the public may determine if it is a subject in which they have an interest. See
10 OMLO 99-01 (January 5, 1999); OMLO 99- 03 (January 11, 1999).

11 (Nevada Open Meeting Law Manual, Nevada Attorney General’s Office, 10th ed., December

12 2005, at §7.02).

13 14. Further, the manual points out an opinion of the Nevada Supreme Court with

14 respect to the clear and complete agenda requirement:

15 In 2003, the Nevada Supreme Court in Sandoval v. Board of Regents, 119


Nev. 148, 67 P.3d 902 (2003) created significant jurisprudence regarding
16 Nevada’s Open Meeting Law, in particular NRS 241.020(2)(c)(1). The
Court stated that this provision was enacted by the Legislature “to ensure
17 that the public is on notice regarding what will be discussed at public
meetings.” Id. at 155. Relying upon case law from Texas and Nebraska, the
18 Court emphasized the purpose of Nevada’s Law: “Similarly, Nevada’s Open
Meeting Law seeks to give the public clear notice of the topics to be
19 discussed so that the public can attend a meeting when an issue of interest
will be discussed.” Id. at 155.
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15. The Council should give weight to the Nevada Attorney General’s opinion
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and the State Supreme Court because the Open Meeting Law is the same for state and local
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entities as it is for the ASUN Senate. The provisions of the law do not change for ASUN, as
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they were made specifically applicable to ASUN by both the Regents and ASUN.
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16. In the instant case, the Council should view challenged agenda items in the
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1 view of the clear and complete standard. Agenda items like “Amendments to the Budget” or

2 “Capital Spending” do not give the public notice in fact as to what will actually be

3 considered.

4 17. Furthermore, Petitioner more generally complains against the fact that almost

5 all bills and resolutions noticed on agendas for this session lacked the number assigned to it,

6 thereby going against the advice that “[a]n agenda must never be drafted with the intent of

7 creating confusion or uncertainty as to the items to be considered.” If the bill or resolution

8 number is not listed on the agenda, the public will have difficulty seeking out the proper bill

9 or resolution to determine what will actually be considered. Given the fact that Senate Rules

10 require sufficient advanced filing of bills and resolutions so that a number can be assigned in

11 advance of the agenda posting deadline, it is simply inexcusable that numbers are not listed

12 on the agenda. (Under the same rules, the Senate during the 75th Session, with rare

13 exception, had little trouble in stating the bill and resolution numbers on agendas).

14 18. Accordingly, the Council should declare that the Senate is not in compliance

15 with the provisions of the OML in that minimum public notice was not given of its meetings,

16 due to the fact that notice of what action may be taken during the meetings was not compliant

17 with the clear and complete agenda standard.

18 Second Cause of Action

19 Injunctive Relief

20 Arising out of First Cause of Action

21 19. Petitioner repeats and realleges each and every allegation contained within

22 paragraphs 1 through 18 as though fully incorporated herein.

23 20. The Council should enjoin the Senate from posting agendas in violation of the

24 clear and complete standard of the Open Meeting Law.

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COMPLAINT FOR DECLARATORY AND INJUNCTIVE RELIEF


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1 Third Cause of Action

2 Declaratory Relief

3 Declaring Null and Void Certain Acts

4 21. Petitioner repeats and realleges each and every allegation contained within

5 paragraphs 1 through 20 as though fully incorporated herein.

6 22. Assuming the Council grants the relief granted in the First Cause of Action,

7 the Council should also declare void the acts had and decisions made during the meetings

8 declared to have been held in violation of the Open Meeting Law. NRS 241.036 states “[t]he

9 action of any public body taken in violation of any provision of this chapter is void.”

10 Accordingly, if the Council finds that violations occurred, it has no choice but to declare

11 them void. Although Petitioner is aware that NRS 241.037(3) contains a statute of limitations

12 on when a person can bring a complaint seeking declaratory and injunctive relief to seek

13 compliance with the OML or to have actions declared void, NRS 241.038 states that the

14 Board of Regents is to establish the regulations governing student governments and is to

15 “provide for their enforcement.” The parallel provision at the Regents level to NRS 241.036

16 is at Title 4, Board of Regents Handbook, Chapter 20, Part B, section 3(5)(a): “Violations of

17 this section shall be treated as follows: a. Any action taken in violation of the provisions of

18 this section is void.” Because ASUN has enacted its own legislation stating that its officials,

19 in the ASUN context, are to comply with the law, the provisions of the OML as applied on

20 ASUN by the Regents is enforceable in this Council under the constitutional judicial power

21 of the Associated Students.

22 23. Further, the Regents did not institute a statute of limitations on enforcement

23 complaints, nor did ASUN.

24 WHEREFORE, Petitioner prays for judgment against Respondents as follows:

25 1. For a declaration that Respondents’ actions constitute a violation of the laws

COMPLAINT FOR DECLARATORY AND INJUNCTIVE RELIEF


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1 and regulations cited herein.

2 2. For an order enjoining Respondents from engaging in further violations of the

3 laws and regulations cited herein

4 3. For a declaration that actions take in violation of the laws and regulations

5 cited herein are void.

6 4. For such other relief as the Council deems just and proper.

7 Dated this _____ day of __________________, 2009.

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9 Corinna Cohn
cohnc@unr.nevada.edu
10 Petitioner

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