An open letter to the SC

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Claude Desmoulins
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An open letter to the SC

Post by Claude Desmoulins »

I wished to comment on the decision of 10 November that transcripts of SC meetings shall no longer be made or permitted .

First of all I want to recognize that the SC is perfectly within its constitutional prerogatives to provide only a journal. Now let me explain why I think said decision may be unwise.

Transparency has always been a core value of our community. This decision is a clear step away from that value. The SC is already one of the less accountable institutions in our community. If the SC uses this opportunity to provide minimal documentation of its actions, it risks turning into an opaque entity dispensing oracle like pronouncements. Such a course would severely undermine popular confidence in the institution, in my opinion.

I urge the SC to provide thorough explanations of the reasoning underlying its decisions in forthcoming journals. I sincerely hope this is not remembered as a point at which our community and governance faltered. I will withhold further comment on this action until the SC has had the opportunity to explain its choice to the people.

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Ashcroft Burnham
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Post by Ashcroft Burnham »

I suggest a bill at this or the next RA meeting requiring the SC to publish full transcripts.

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Another possibility

Post by Gxeremio Dimsum »

How about a bill that requires government meetings and perhaps even faction meetings post transcripts of their meetings, with the possibility of having people present vote for a closed session to discuss a topic which would be named in the transcript?
In a community this small, sometimes meetings or factions need to talk about issues or be able to freely express opinions about residents and their proposals.

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Post by Patroklus Murakami »

In general, I agree that government meetings ought to be carried out in public, a transcript kept and posted.

I don't know why the SC have made this decision (or event if that's entirely the case) as no one from the SC has posted a notice to that effect as far as I'm aware.

But I disagree with any general requirement for transparency being imposed on factions as well as government meetings. Now this might seem a little odd given that the CSDF posts full transcripts of its meetings on these forums in the interests of transparency:) But I think it has to be up to factions to decide if they want to have meetings, whether to hold these inworld or out of world, via voice chat, Gchat or any other medium and how much they want to divulge of that. There's no way you can force people to be transparent if they don't want to be, people will just find other channels of communication and keep them to themselves. I think it's ultimately in the interests of transparency to allow factions to choose how they organise their own affairs.

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Dianne
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SC privacy

Post by Dianne »

Hi, I am not speaking for the SC here, but this idea of not posting transcripts of every thing said in an SC meeting could be said to originate from me in the sense that I suggested it recently.

First, if you look at the original Constitution it carefully leaves the SC out of the responsibility of publishing full transcripts of their meetings and only suggests that they publish a journal of sorts, and only if they want to.

As I understand it the original idea behind that is that the SC functions (or functioned in the original setup), as a sort of supreme court for the City. there is no supreme court or any judicial body I know of that publishes public accounts of its deliberations. If there was a "trial" (like what happened with the terrorist attack), then the trial transcripts would be published, but any "in camera" private deliberations would not be.

In general practice, and in the case of Ulrika's trial, every word was published, but this was not [i:fk7xgvn1]required[/i:fk7xgvn1] of the SC, it was simply something that they did because there did not seem to be a reason not to.

The impetus for the request from me that we resort to the constitutional position of not publishing every word we say was primarily that there are many things that need to be said in deliberation of cases or petitions that are personal. Recently for instance we had been asked to review the qualifications or merits of certain members in regards their inclusion on the SC or on some of the judicial posts then available. It is quite impossible to talk about the relative merits of one candidate or another in a frank and honest fashion, knowing that every word you say about them will become public knowledge. At least that is what I believe. Suppose for the sake of argument that Terrorist_X was to apply to join the SC or something, I might want to say that I think she is dishonest (or worse) and thus not a good candidate. Once that is published in a log though, besides being just plain rude, it could even be actionable as libel.

There is a need for this type of discussion to take place, and if it can't happen in the context of a recorded meeting, then it will just happen anyway in private and not be recorded. (Although we haven't discussed the specifics of this yet, I think a fair proposal would be to record the meeting, but only publish an abbreviated journal or statement, keeping the actual record of the meeting available so its contents can still be accessed if necessary).

I have also long been of the opinion that many of the SC's logs are already filled with personal remarks, asides and inuendo and that this reflects poorly on what is supposed to be an austere, serious institution. The SC doe s not have the formal rules of the Representative Assembly and many of our discussions work best in an informal "roundabout" kind of style. When published later (complete with jokes), I think this unseemly at best.

I am greatly at fault for this myself as the people who know me know that I tend to make a lot of jokes when I get nervous or when the situation gets serious (and sometimes any time at all). This leads to transcripts of serious issues peppered with informal remarks and rambling discussion that does not reflect the great care in which we actually take to reach our decisions.

In short, it "doesn't look good" to have these transcripts published verbatim on the web for all to see and at times can be a violation of privacy for some citizens of the State. It also can act as a stifling measure on debate within the SC. And that is the reasoning for the request I made.

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Claude Desmoulins
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Post by Claude Desmoulins »

Two things here.

You say that it "doesn't look good". Not keeping a transcript is one way to solve that problem. Another is for people to be more thoughtful in choosing what to type and not type during public meetings.

You are quite correct that most courts of last resort do not publish their deliberations. However, these courts often have publicly available written or oral arguments in which advocates for different positions are invited to "make their case".

These same courts almost inevitably publish lengthy decisions in which they lay out both the actions the court has taken and the reasons for those actions. If the SC were to include these provisions in its process, I would be less concerned about the absence of transcripts. Without them, there is the risk that the process becomes inappropriately opaque.

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Post by Ashcroft Burnham »

Indeed, much of Dianne's reasoning about the judicial aspects has in any event been rendered obsolete by the Judiciary Act's precise distinction between the Scientific Council when sitting as a court, and when sitting as a council.

When sitting as a court, the Court of Scientific Council must publish transcripts of the hearing itself, as well as a full reasoned judgment, but need not publish its deliberations.

When sitting as a council, the Scientific Council is acting like any other public body, and has no more reason to refuse to disclose transcripts than does the Representative Assembly.

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Post by Dianne »

Well I was just trying to explain my reasoning behind the request for the benefit of all concerned, but I guess this forum is a bit nastier than it used to be. :)

I would like critics of my [i:2xmjbsge]request[/i:2xmjbsge] (which is not necessarily going to be enacted anyway) to note a couple of things that perhaps they overlooked in their rush to judgment:

1) A part of the general idea is that a transcript [i:2xmjbsge]would[/i:2xmjbsge] be kept, but simply not published. No information would necessarily be secret, and a journal or summation would be published of each meeting with with the "salient points, decisions etc. all laid out. The transcript would be there for people to search if they need to or whatever.

2) In the original constitutional setup there already existed [i:2xmjbsge]no requirement for the SC to publish anything at all[/i:2xmjbsge], yet they have actually published every word said in every meeting so far. This is only modified by the judiciary bill/amendment that made the definition of the position and role of the SC in our society somewhat murkier to say the least.

Interestingly, the only part of government that has held "secret" meetings of which no transcripts were kept is the RA under Claude Desmoulins which made a controversial naming decision for the entire multi-sim project without keeping a record of who said what, or what the reasoning was on the choice. In this case, the members actually had a [i:2xmjbsge]requirement[/i:2xmjbsge] to take minutes and failed to do so. This also "looked bad" because the only three people present at the meeting were those that were already heavy personal supporters of the name that was eventually chosen. How are we to know that this decision was made on grounds other than the known personal preferences of the three members present? ;)

The SC has operated in an entirely transparent manner up to this point, far exceeding any constitutional requirements for access to it's decisions and ruminations and to suggest even [i:2xmjbsge]obliquely[/i:2xmjbsge] that this is some kind of "secret committee" is insulting to me personally.

Yes, if we revise the entire manner of operation of the current SC and enact a series of complicated rules of order in regards its meetings, we can get to a position where we could record every word said and publish it on the web without fear. Is this practical however? Maybe we should spend a few months and several hundred thousand words (and a few bills through the house of course), arguing about it?

Remember too that this would require the SC to meet at other "secret" times or to communicate by email to talk about all the stuff that can't really be said in an open meeting. So there would exist a sanitised record of what was said at a sanitised meeting with a lot of unsaid, and "pre-said" stuff that no one would ever know about. What a solution!

At least with my suggestion, the SC meetings (which are hard enough to coordinate already), could continue as usual. There would also be a clear concise statement issued at the end of each one as to what happened, which is a clear benefit since most members don't wade though 30 pages of transcripts to see what happened anyway.

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Post by Diderot Mirabeau »

I support fully Dianne's position in this matter.

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Post by Claude Desmoulins »

First, let me acknowledge that there is no legal requirement that the SC (or the RA for that matter) keep or publish transcripts.

Second, if transcripts are to be kept but not published, it would allay some of my concerns. This was not the impression I carried away from the SC meeting, though my attendance there was admittedly qute brief.

Third, though my understanding of the events surrounding the naming process differs from Dianne's, it's probably not productive to rehash things here.

Now, on to my actual points,

A) I believe there's a significant difference between not publishing transcripts in certain defined situations and making non publication the default.

B) Even were the RA to stop publishing transcripts and distribute only the minimal journal required by the constitution, one could get a pretty good idea of what was going on by examining the text of the acts and resolutions passed by the RA. There is not an analogous thread of documentation with the SC.

C) We have commited to building a common law system. Precedent is therefore vital. If there is to be no transcript, it is imperative that SC decisions lay out in an excruciatingly clear and detailed manner the reasoning behind rulings. Otherwise, what will the judges of common jurisdiction have to go on? Previous published decisions have sometimes met this goal and sometimes not. Absent transcripts, our legal system depends on the thoroughness of these decision announcements.

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Post by Diderot Mirabeau »

It is my opinion that Claude has made some pretty good points in elaborating his case and I will personally venture forth to ensure we get a discussion of the possibility for having some more formalised orders of procedure in place for SC meetings.

I could not agree more with the urgent need for publication of a journal of the outcome of every SC meeting with the personal philosophy of every member quoted in response to a specific item for decision on the agenda as the constitution requires. That this has not been done is most unfortunate but I believe can be largely seen to be a result of the failure to recruit an archivist of the SC.

Furthermore, I agree with Claude that the concerns of Dianne and myself can to a large extent be addressed by choosing to go in closed chamber with regard to the deliberation of specific items where disclosure might be damaging to individuals or the execution of business for the SC. However, I also have a great deal of sympathy for the argument that it obfuscates more than it clarifies to have people wade through long verbatim discussions of legal-philosophical issues with built-in jokes and might possibly detract from the authority of the SC. For this reason I am personally inclined toward only publishing the cases presented before the SC, the decisions made in extension hereof along with justifications and individual members philosophy in each case.

I'd therefore like to encourage the Dean to summon the college of chairs of the SC for a new meeting where we will discuss these ideas and urgently address the needs for providing summaries of decisions taken by the SC, establishing an order of procedure for our business and hopefully hiring an archivist.

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Post by Gwyneth Llewelyn »

Sounds reasonable, Diderot. Let me know the date that you'd be all available for discussion, and the agenda will be:

1) Procedures
2) Opening a job vacancy for the SC Archivist, as per the budget approved in January 2006 (I think)

I'm usually available every day except Saturday on the 2-6 PM PST time slot.

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