UC Santa Barbara College Republicans hosted a public forum on Oct. 24 to discuss the role of due process in the judicial system.
Students addressed political polarization, due process in the public sphere, the Kavanaugh hearings and how to best evaluate accusations of misconduct.
The forum consisted of small group discussions followed by an open mic. The stated goal of the forum was to foster “constructive and respectful debate,” according to UCSB College Republicans president Leslie Garcia.
During the group discussion portion, participants broke into roughly six groups ranging from five to ten members.
Discussion was guided by the following three questions, which were displayed on a screen at the front of the room:
- Do you believe that the right to due process has served the purpose envisioned by the authors of the Constitution?
- Does due process help to facilitate justice?
- Is the principle “innocent until proven guilty” the best way for organizing a legal system?
While the discussion questions focused on the legal implications of due process, participants also heavily discussed Justice Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings and the national uproar left in the wake of his confirmation.
Speakers then shifted the topic from due process in the legal system to due process in public life. Eleven participants volunteered to speak during the open mic and were given a maximum of two minutes each.
California College Republicans co-chair Andrew Gates stressed the necessity of maintaining due process, even in the court of public opinion. He advocated for the reflection of constitutional values in American culture throughout the discussion.
“Even though it is technically true that we don’t have to abide by the stringent standard of due process that a court of law has to abide by, in cases like Kavanaugh…we should live in the spirit of the constitutional principles,” he said.
A minority of people disagreed with Gates, stating that due process should not apply outside of the legal system.
Fourth year mathematics major Dylan Pizzo spoke about the infeasibility of applying due process in the real world.
“Suppose you’re looking at prospective hires. An applicant…at their previous job were accused of embezzling, and it turned out to be inconclusive whether they did it or not,” Pizzo said.
“The probability that they are an embezzler is much higher now… [supporters of cultural due process] are saying that an employer should hire this person…even if the probability that they are an embezzler is much higher.”
Some speakers chose to focus on misconduct allegations, specifically sexual misconduct allegations with little direct evidence, such as first year political science major Ally Baker. She questioned whether the testimony of an accuser should be sufficient evidence.
“As important as testimonies are…there comes a point when you do need more evidence,” she said. “Are personal testimonies considered evidence?”
Gates denounced the notion that accusers should be sided with when little evidence is available, pointing to the destructive effect that false accusations can have on the lives of the accused.
“I really worry about a society where just because the person is a woman and just because there does exist this terrible tragedy of rape that we automatically have to believe every accuser who comes forward. I think that’s bullshit,” Gates said.
“I think that people downplay the effect that a false accusation can have…Let’s say that the studies that the feminists put forward are true, that 2 to 10 percent are false accusations. Even if it were 2 percent, like that’s fucking crazy to me.”
Garcia said she was pleased with the way the forum went.
“There was a lot of very constructive and respectful discussion, and it seemed that a lot of people in the room had different opinions on the questions that were posed,” she said.
As the school year progresses, UCSB College Republicans hopes to hold additional monthly forums to provide spaces for debate on controversial topics, according to Garcia.