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Friday, June 21, 2024
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SG judicial board remains empty after interim judicial board chair resigns

Following alleged performance issues, the board will remain empty until January

The American University Student Government judicial board has been empty since Oct. 26, when three of the four board members failed to appear at the senate meeting that would have reconfirmed them for another term and Interim Judicial Board Chair Carter Foust resigned prior to the meeting.

Following these events, the board has since been empty. In a statement to The Eagle, Undergraduate Senate Speaker Zoë Washington said the board will remain empty until next semester when a new senate takes over and fills the vacancies. 

The purpose of the judicial board is to act as a check and balance on both SG’s legislative and executive branches and to interpret the organization’s governing documents. The judicial board deals with issues that arise from interpreting the documents as well as dealing with alleged violations of them that may occur. 

The other board members, Summer Cirino and Austin Harrison, failed to appear at the meeting due to ongoing time conflicts that prevented them from serving another term. The SG senate may have also played a role, as multiple senators were preparing articles of impeachment to remove Foust.

Among the performance issues in question was the failure of judicial board members to serve as an acting parliamentarian, according to SG Senator-at-large Ryan Hale, a junior in the School of Public Affairs and College of Arts and Sciences. The parliamentarian is responsible for ensuring proper order at senate meetings. Senators also criticized the board's handling of several judicial board cases, citing decisions that allegedly violated the SG constitution and were potentially made in bad faith, Hale said. 

Hale expressed his frustration with the issues surrounding the judicial board. 

“We [have been without] a parliamentarian since May when Parliamentarian Steven Goodall graduated,” Hale said. “Under the Judicial Register, which is their governing document, the judicial board chair is supposed to then serve as acting parliamentarian, which he didn’t do.”

According to Hale, this obligation can be passed down to other judicial board members if the chair is unable to fulfill the role, but multiple senators said they did not receive any communications from Foust as to whether he could fulfill the role or would delegate it to other board members.

Among those senators is former Senator Paul Relyea, now the SG comptroller. During his term as a senator, he represented former SG presidential candidate Gabriel Amaro in an elections complaint against fellow former SG presidential candidate Ishita Jamar in March.

The complaint alleged that Jamar had violated SG election and campaign rules by announcing her candidacy for the presidency at a senate meeting speech. Jamar’s representatives disagreed, saying it wasn’t an official campaign speech. Ultimately, the Office of the Inspector and Elections Commissioner suggested a sanction against Jamar based on the findings of the investigation.  The judicial board's decision directly contrasted that suggestion, and unanimously found Jamar not in violation of the campaign rules. 

In a statement to The Eagle, Jamar said she believed the members of the board acted with professionalism and impartiality. The decision to not sanction Jamar was because she informed the Senate about a "potential upcoming change in leadership," according to the judicial board opinion document.

“They overruled the independent inspectors’ determination, and they overruled what the elections commissioner said,” Relyea said. “And they set this precedent now that things like this can happen and that people that have specified jurisdictions under in our documents on policy issues, it doesn’t matter what they think.”

For Jamar, the new legislation surrounding the judicial board seemed "to only be imposed because individuals were upset with the decision made," she said.

"In 2020, there were more people running for Senate than seats available, and the Board was always full because individuals believed they were able to make a change in the organization. Since then, the climate has changed drastically and become hostile, which explains why the Judicial Board and a majority of the Senate is empty," Jamar wrote in a statement to The Eagle. "If individuals in the current Student Government disagree with your decisions or opinions, they will find a way to remove you.”

After the complaint decision, several senators eventually decided to draw up articles of impeachment against Foust. The legislation that accomplished this was written and proposed by Senators Ashley Bastin and Andrew Gamble. To convince Hale to support the articles of impeachment, new regulations for the judicial board were included in another bill. Once the new regulations were included, Hale decided to back the legislation. The legislation was passed on Oct. 23 with a majority voting in favor.

These regulations included mandatory reporting requirements to the senate by the judicial board, adjusting reconfirmation procedures to prevent board members from being reconfirmed if they do not wish to stay on the board and term limits of four terms, which translates to two years.

Before the impeachment proceedings went forward, Foust resigned from his position. According to Foust, this was due to him being unable to fulfill the necessary time commitment that SG required.

“While I have some concerns with the Government's treatment of the judicial board the last few semesters, my resignation was in response to me not wanting my schedule to impose on the Senate rather than as a protest,” Foust said in a statement.

Since then, SG has opened applications for judicial board positions. Moving forward, SG members will conduct interviews and other screening processes to narrow down the number of applicants, before President Chyna Brodie and Washington nominate two candidates each for senate confirmation. Confirmation hearings are expected to begin in January, when the new undergraduate senate takes over, according to Washington.

Brodie was unable to be reached for comment.

Editor's Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly phrased the sanction that the Office of the Inspector and Elections Commissioner suggested. This article has also been updated to reflect that the correct position is "judicial board chair," not chief. This article has been updated with a statement from Jamar.

Clare Mulroy contributed to the reporting of this article.

As the semester comes to an end and one of the founding members leaves American University, Section 202 has decided to take a trip down memory lane. For our fans, old and new, who are wondering how Section 202 came to be, this episode is a must. Listen along as hosts Connor Sturniolo and Liah Argiropoulos reminisce about the beginning of Section 202 and how it got to where it is now.

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