Graduate student Carey Ash plans to appeal decision to dismiss complaint against University

Illinois Circuit Judge Michael Jones dismissed University graduate student and former student trustee candidate Carey Ash’s complaint against a University dean with prejudice at the hearing held this morning.

Ash had filed the complaint against Kenneth Ballom, associate vice chancellor for student affairs and dean of students, following Ballom’s elimination of Ash from the spring 2013 student trustee election on the basis of in-state residency disputes. Ash claims he is a resident, as he pays state taxes and votes in-state, among other reasons.

“I find that the defendant, with arguments for the mootness doctrine, is well-taken,” Jones said.

William Brinkmann, representing Ballom from Thomas, Mamer & Haughey LLP, and Ash, representing himself, presented arguments for nearly an hour before Jones made his decision. Brinkmann opened arguments and stated the election cited in the complaint — the spring 2013 student trustee election — was over; therefore, the mootness doctrine applies.

The mootness doctrine refers to a principle of judicial procedure whereby American courts will not decide on cases in which there is no longer any actual controversy.

Brinkmann said no allegations within the complaint were pursuant to public interest. He also said there was no factual pleading that some violation of the law was likely to continue. Both public interest and continual violations of the law are exceptions to the mootness doctrine.

In response, Ash presented a stack of documents he prepared and organized. Ash argued the court had changed his name from Carey Ash to Carey Hawkins Ash, thereby asserting him as a resident of the state of Illinois. Ash also said he has lived in the state for a number of years, and he both votes and works in the state.

Ash said he also qualifies as a resident under the University’s code, which states student trustee applicants must be a resident of the state of Illinois. Ash said he was denied on the basis of tuition requirements, which are irrelevant to Illinois residency law.

Upon hearing Brinkmann’s argument that the complaint was not of public importance, Ash said student trustee eligibility requirements affect a large number of people and will affect the University’s students in every way. Jones said he is not so sure that Ballom’s 2013 decision will foreclose Ash’s eligibility to run again in 2014, as Ash stated it would.

Jones said the law requires that a student trustee must be a resident, but the law doesn’t define what a resident is. The decision is left up to the administrative officials to determine resident or non-resident status.

“I find it not desirable for this court to second-guess this administration to determine if someone is or is not a resident,” Jones said.

After the hearing, Brinkmann said the issue was “fairly straightforward.”

“The complaint he was seeking to reverse was what could not be reversed,” Brinkmann said, referencing Ash’s eligibility for the 2013 election.

Ash said he would appeal the decision in an interview following the hearing.

“I guess my quote on today would be what else do you expect?” Ash said. “You have a court that is in downstate Illinois that is in the backyard of the University. We expect fairness and justice, and we expect those things to prevail. And they didn’t today.”

Janelle can be reached at [email protected]