As part of the continuing Signpost series on analyzing the work of the Arbitration Committee, its work and its membership, we take a closer look this week at the committee's deliberations over the ban appeal of TimidGuy. This case dealt not only with important principles of jurisdiction (as it concerned the appeal of a block imposed by Jimbo Wales), but a deeper look at committee discussions over the appropriate remedy in the case can serve as a case study of how the committee crafts a consensus opinion. Over more than 60 days, the committee worked tirelessly to reach a decision—a decision that will now have a lasting impact on arbitration work as a whole.
On 14 December 2011, the Arbitration Committee opened TimidGuy's ban appeal as a full case. At the onset, arbitrator Roger Davies opined that the committee would have to review "the [extent] to which [Jimbo] may develop policy by fiat", a reference to newly created conflict-of-interest rules. Other arbitrators accepted the case on the simple basis of reviewing possibly disruptive editing by the editor in question.
After weeks of evidence submissions and workshop proposals, the Committee sat down to hammer out a proposed decision. What would result would be a series of procedural guidelines that the Committee would use in the future, and a clear statement of its jurisdiction.
The proposed decision in the case was posted on 20 February by drafter Roger Davies, who wrote the proposals alongside colleague Jclemens. Over the next week, other members of the Committee discussed and debated a series of principles which would guide decisions on remedies in the immediate case and cases in the future. A discussion of some of the more important principles follows below.
The Committee voted unanimously to approve a principle which clearly defined the jurisdiction of the Arbitration Committee. Taken from the recently amended arbitration policy page, the Committee included "the resolution of private matters unsuitable for public discussion" as a responsibility for oversight. This principle is important in the context of the TimidGuy case, where some material was unsuitable for public discussion—several issues touched on in the Committee's findings had to be discussed behind the scenes on the Committee mailing list.
Unique posture of review
TimidGuy was in a unique position for Committee review, as the Committee was revisiting a ban decision made by Jimbo Wales. The Committee affirmed past policy that Jimbo Wales "retains the authority to ban editors" and that an appeal from such a decision may not be appealed back to Jimbo. Arbitrator Newyorkbrad added a note in discussions that this principle did not change any existing policy: "When it was decided (with Jimbo Wales' concurrence) that his actions involving individual users...were subject to review by this Committee, it was also decided that Jimbo Wales' reserved power to review this Committee's decisions could not apply where we reviewed one of his own rulings". Arbitrator Jclemens added a different note, pointing out that this principle "is interesting" because "[this power of Jimbo Wales] is one of the few direct powers [he] still maintains as founder, most of the rest having been given up over the past few years". Jclemens also added a historical reference to older arbitration policy which expressed that this power of Jimbo's was "theoretical" and "not intended for use".
While TimidGuy related to a very special instance of a ban appeal, the case, taken in context of other historical notes on Jimbo Wales' authority as 'Founder', is an intriguing study of the ArbCom–Jimbo relationship. While it is not landmark in the sense that it has changed something, this case does demonstrate a clear indication of ArbCom's authority in relation to its own cases and to other entities—a statement that is likely to evolve over time as the encyclopedia grows in the future.
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