Law Student to Head University Judiciary Committee

Peter Bautz '18
UJC Chair

On March 19, 2017, the newly elected University Judiciary Committee (UJC) Representatives from the various schools at UVa met in the Rotunda to elect their new leadership. For the first time in recent history, a law student, Peter Bautz ’18, was elected Chair of the UJC. Given the recent discussion of graduate representation on UJC, Peter’s win represents a huge step forward for graduate students, and for law students specifically, in the organization. We had a chance to sit down with Peter and hear about his time on UJC and his plans as UJC’s leader.

1. How did you become involved with the UJC?

In my first year, I applied to be a counselor on the UJC. I hoped to further hone my advocacy skills for use after law school. UJC and Honor both offered opportunities to do this in the first semester of my first year. My selection of the UJC had a lot to do with the fact that the UJC hears many more cases a year than Honor, which offered me better prospects for getting more cases and thus more chances to work on my advocacy skills. The UJC would allow me to help real people as opposed to the imaginary clients I had been helping through eight years of mock trial.

Last year, both of the Law School's UJC Representatives were not seeking re-election. Over my first year, I had found that the UJC was my favorite extra-curricular activity, so I decided to run for one of the open UJC Rep positions. By the start of the election, only two people – Brandon Newman and I­– were seeking the seats. We were both elected to those positions, and I transitioned to being a judge on April 1, 2016.

2. What was your old position and what did you accomplish in that role?

The Vice Chair for Trials oversees most of the administrative operations of the UJC. From scheduling cases to ensuring cases were properly staffed, I oversaw all of the cases that came through the system, from filing through assignment to a trial chair. I also oversaw the representative pool, which is made up of the twenty-five representatives ­–two from each of UVa's different schools (except the College, which has three representatives).

On the operational side of my work, I used my knowledge of public legal records to match accused students with their public court records to keep on top of when their criminal trials were occurring (if there was a criminal trial). This additional resource allowed me to schedule cases once criminal trials had been resolved. I stayed on top of cases and scheduled a large number of them throughout the past year. In fact, over the past three months in which the UJC heard cases, we have had a case scheduled almost every single weekday night (including Fridays). Scheduling all the cases and ensuring they got staffed with judges was a challenge, but I was able to successfully get it done.

On the representative side, I tried to help bring more qualitative feedback into our system by bringing in sample Investigator's Reports and mock opening and closing statements by counselors for representatives to learn how to effectively give feedback to support officers after a trial. I also brought more awareness to graduate issues by having our representatives workshop what sorts of questions panels might need to ask different accused students from different schools. A question that makes sense for a twenty-year-old undergraduate may not make as much sense for a twenty-nine-year-old law student. 

3. Why did you run for chair?

There are a few reasons I ran for chair. The first is that I have seen a lot of issues with the UJC’s outreach to graduate students. Every year that I have run to be a UJC Rep for the law school, the question I get more often than “What's your platform?” is “What does the UJC do?” This question suggests to me that even at the law school, where the UJC has its strongest bastion of graduate student support, there is a failure to communicate effectively what the UJC does and what our mission is. The situation is even worse in other schools. We regularly have issues filling all of the graduate student UJC Rep seats from the different grad schools.

Second, I wanted to ensure a level of institutional memory within the UJC. I am the only returning Voting Member of the UJC Executive Committee, as the other three members are all graduating. Most of my new Vice Chairs have some Executive Committee experience but not as voting members. I have met with Susan Davis, our legal adviser, many times throughout the year, and I have worked with Mitch Wellman (fourth year, CLAS), our outgoing Chair, on a number of issues over this year. I thus know a lot about many of the longer-term issues that the UJC has faced this year. I ran for Chair because I would bring that institutional knowledge with me, ensuring some continuity on the UJC.

Finally, I ran to continue graduate representation in the Voting Members of the Executive Committee. This reason is not unique to the Chair position, as I could have kept my old position with the same result. However, I felt that it would be beneficial to have a graduate student at the top of the UJC. Having a graduate student in the Chair position sends a message to the University community that we are all one community regardless of whether we are graduate or undergraduate students.

4. What will your new role require you to do?

The UJC Chair is a multifaceted role. I find it helpful to break it into two general spheres of responsibilities: internal and external. In terms of internal responsibilities, the Chair oversees all UJC activities. He or she helps to select the non-voting Executive Committee members and plays a role in the selection process for new support officers. The Chair ensures everything is running smoothly and that cases are going off without any issues. Outside of trials, the Chair runs Executive Committee and General Body meetings.

In terms of external responsibilities, the Chair is the public face of the UJC. The Chair is the only member of the UJC authorized to speak for the UJC. The Chair helps organize outreach strategies with the Senior Educator and ensures that the UJC's message is getting out to the University community. Additionally, the Chair represents the UJC on multi-organization committees like the Presidential Senate. Through all these activities, the Chair represents the UJC to the University at-large.

5. What do you hope to accomplish through UJC in the coming year?

I think the key word for all of the new voting members is “outreach.” We want to increase outreach to the University across the board. Some undergraduates view the UJC as a punitive body–an image we would like to change because it is not accurate. Personally, I would like to expand our outreach among the graduate schools. Two UJC Reps can't do all the outreach necessary at a school alone. I want to increase the number of Educators we have working on graduate outreach. One of the challenges here is adapting to the different circumstances of each school.

I would like to put together more social activities for our members. One theme that has emerged from Voting Member elections this year is that our Representatives often feel that they are isolated from the support officers. I would like to work with the new Vice Chair for Trials to put together more fun activities that bring our members from all of our pools together. This past year we had a banquet that brought together all of our members with student life personnel. It was a successful evening, and I would like to see more events like it as well as some less formal events.

6. Can you talk about graduate representation on the UJC?

Graduate representation is hard to universalize because there are so many different graduate schools. The law school is one of the best-represented graduate schools on the UJC due in large part to the number of law students who become Counselors. Although the past two elections for UJC Rep from the law school have been noncompetitive, the law school generally does not have too much of an issue filling its two Representative spots. Other graduate schools regularly have issues filling their Rep slots, and most of the time there are no support officers from any graduate school besides the law school. I view this as a serious problem. Graduate students make up about a third of the University, but their representation on the UJC does not match that breakdown.

One side effect of this representation issue is that sometimes there are no graduate students on the Executive Committee. The most recent time this happened was two years ago. This past year, Alex Haden, Amy Ackerman, and I represented three graduate students on the eleven-member Executive Committee. This coming year's Executive Committee has not fully formed yet, but I, at least, will represent one graduate student on the Executive Committee. I would also like to find a way to ensure that the Executive Committee always has at least one graduate student member, as I think we provide a different perspective from the undergraduates.

7. Anything else you want to add?

I look forward to representing not only the law school but every student at this University as the Chair of the UJC. It is an office with many responsibilities. I hope to bring the perseverance and dedication that we as law students embody to this position as I lead the UJC for the next year.