In the last session of the Undergraduate Student Government judicial nominations committee, two justices were appointed to the Judiciary, bringing the total to six. This is against the USG Constitution, which states that only five justices, one of whom is the Chief Justice, can be a part of the branch at any one time.
Justices include Nomin Munkhbat, Stephen Perry, Mark Zebrowski, Andrew Stern and Adam Ghalmi, with Tyler Ryff holding the chief justice office.
Ryff said this oversight was due to a misunderstanding of the Constitution by the appointments committee and the lack of judicial oversight in the decision.
“Typically, it’s written down that we have to put a justice in the nominations committee,” Ryff said. “No justices were sent to the nominations committee, so we got two justices appointed at the same time. Now we are in a bit of a hazy situation where we don’t know if we can say if these people are justices or not.”
In these committees, which are dissolved after each appointment, the Executive Board nominates a candidate who is then voted on by the Senate.
Ryff said the missinterpetation of the Constitution came with the wording in Article XIII, Section I, “The Judiciary shall consist of five Justices.” He said the phrase “at most five” or “exactly” five would have made it clear to other members of USG how many justices should be appointed.
No plans have been made to impeach one of the justices to match the number specified. Rules on impeachment in the Constitution are also an issue, because they pertain to elected justices, not appointed ones.
“Elected justices have allowances in the constitution to be impeached, but that is old wording in the constitution, as all justices are appointed,” Ryff said.
If justices were elected, the vote would go to Executive Committee. If two-thirds decide the candidate should be impeached, the issue would go to Senate for appeal and a vote.
“If we were say to impeach a regular appointed justice, it would go before the judiciary to decide. It seems very difficult to imagine the judiciary getting rid of two justices,” Ryff said.
Because justices are appointed, the procedure is different than that outlined in the Constitution. Ryff said any member of the student body can file a petition to remove the justice. Then the rest of the Judiciary decides whether to impeach the offending justice or not.
Even with USG presidential elections coming up, and the frequent decision of the election made by a judicial ruling, Ryff is not worried by the even number of justices. He said no more than three will sit on a panel at any one time, so there isn’t a chance of a tie vote on a case. No other judicial action has been needed since the additional justice was appointed.
Ryff said the issue has not been a problem this year and could be avoided in the future by rewording the Constitution to explicitly state that no more than five justices should be appointed.
No action has been planned to fix the extra appointment for this semester but Ryff said some revisions to the Constitution are in order to ensure it does not happen again.
“I just hope from now on we are better at highlighting the problems in the Constitution and how we can go about fixing them, rather than getting rid of the two justices we have,” Ryff said.
Nicholas Shigo is associate news editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.