The Associated Students policies committee is changing the structure and function of the organization’s Judicial Court.
If the A.S. Senate approves the proposals, the judges will have power to issue binding rather than advisory rulings on constitutional matters for both the A.S. Senate and campus clubs.
The restructured court will settle disputes between clubs or club members within their clubs, said Adam Salgado, A.S. attorney general.
Additional changes to the court would enlarge the court from four to five members, and would consist of a chief justice and four associate justices.
Two additional non-voting advising members to the court include a Matador Involvement Center representative, currently Sarah Jackson, and an advisor for the chartering of clubs and organizations, currently Vicky Allen.
The attorney general will no longer chair the court under the revisions.
“We’ve been working on this for a little over two months,” said Safa Sajadi, A.S. vice president.
The A.S. Senate collaborated with faculty members to help formulate the changes.
At the first formal meeting on Jan. 6, Christopher Shortell, Political Science professor, offered suggestions about the court’s revisions. Shortell lectures on constitutional law and judicial process
Sajadi said she and Salgado worked with the policies committee to develop the specific changes and present them to the Senate.
“Right now, everything is in the planning stages,” Sajadi said. “We’re setting the duties for the court.”
Sajadi said the court will be based on a similar model used by Cal Poly Pomona, which has a five-judge panel nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate.
“In the past the court was running fine, but it would only charter organizations and hear complaints,” Sajadi said.
“(The changes are) going to provide some additional structure to our organization,” said Chad Charton, A.S. president.
Thomas Gudino, president of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Alliance, said the revised court would be a step forward in preventing discrimination in clubs.
“If somebody has a problem with a club, this would give (the person) a chance to have something done (to resolve the issue),” Gudino said.
The court will also have the capability to monitor elections to ensure constitutional enforcement, Sajadi said.
She said individual students will be able to bring complaints about election procedures, spurring review by the court.
The tentative model is based on a structure similar to the U.S. Supreme Court, which uses judicial review to declare actions by other branches of the government constitutional or unconstitutional.
Unlike the Supreme Court, however, the Judicial Court’s opinions can be overturned by a 3/4 vote of the total voting membership of the A.S. senate, Sajadi said.
The reserved power of the Senate to overturn court opinions serves as a balance between the law-making abilities of the Senate and the ability of the court to declare Senate actions and laws unconstitutional.
“We want to make sure our system is unbiased,” Sajadi said.
The proposed nominating procedure for judges is for the outgoing A.S. president to nominate a chief justice and two associate justices, while the incoming president nominates the remaining two justices. The Senate then votes whether or not to approve.
Sajadi said judges may be nominated for one-year terms.
The proposed format for court rulings is to have traditional majority, and concurring and dissenting opinions, Salgado said.
He said each justice, however, may issue an individual opinion for every case even when there is a unanimous decision.
Similar to the Supreme Court, the Judicial Court is likely to only be able to issue rulings on matters presented to it, Sajadi said.
Other possible changes to the Judicial Court include a new public defender position, which will be responsible for representing student organizations in disputes.
The attorney general will act in a similar manner, representing the student government.
The final draft for the court revisions will be submitted to the Senate on March 7, Sajadi said. The Senate should vote on ratification that day, she said.
Mike Siciliano can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.