Student Court justices begin tenure with limited activity

After several years of inactivity, Student Court is active again—though the court has yet to convene this semester. Student Court functions as the Judicial Branch of the Student Association and as a body of appeals for student organizations.

Junior Caitlin Toth is one of four associate justices who were appointed last semester. “There’s kind of a lack of communication between the SA e-board and the Student Court as far as our coming to meetings or our being there to be involved in what’s going on,” Toth said.

According to a previous article from The Lamron, former SA President Harrison Dole ’15 appointed Toth as well as sophomore Jared Okosun and juniors James Clarke and Colleen Cummings in March. Senior Joshua Roychowdhury had previously been named chief justice.

“I’m on the court and I don’t even know too much about it,” Toth said. “I think it just needs to be more involved. Even if we don’t have cases yet, just being more involved in SA itself would be a good thing.”

According to Article 2 Section 1 Item E of the Student Court Guidelines—which were last approved on Dec. 2, 2009—it is the justices’ duty “to be knowledgeable of and well-versed in all policies of the Student Association, including the SA Constitution, SA Financial Policy, [Undergraduate Student Association Elections Committee] Guidelines and [the Student Court Guidelines].”

Dole held training sessions for the new justices in spring 2015, which largely involved reviewing these policies and guidelines. “We didn’t really do anything with past cases,” Toth said. “Theoretically, we know how it’s supposed to work, but whether or not that’s how it actually would work, we would need to have an actual case to see that.”

According to the Student Court Guidelines Article 3 Item A, “The Court shall hold at least one public meeting during each month of the academic year, not including August or May.” No public meetings are currently scheduled, however.

SA Director of Programs, Personnel and Finances Kate Rebban explained that she does not take issue with the limited activity of the court in recent years. “It’s necessary to have it, but it’s not always utilized yearly,” she said. “I’ve been here 18 years and I think Student Court has probably had 10 hearings in all that time—if that.”

The Student Court Guidelines indicate that the SA Director of Programs, Personnel and Finances will have some involvement in Student Court and review the minutes from meetings when they happen.

“I sit in on hearings because they’re open,” Rebban said. “Usually, I’m not involved, but I know what’s going on.”

Rebban added that Student Court generally convenes as issues come up. “They probably should meet more often, just so that if something comes up, everybody knows everybody and that they’re familiar with our policies,” she said.

SA President senior Andrew Hayes agreed that holding a meeting in the near future would be beneficial. “I’ve been in close contact with Josh [Roychowdhury],” he said. “He knows that I want him to have a meeting, if not by the end of this month, then definitely some time at the beginning of November just so everyone is on the same page.”

The Lamron reached out to Roychowdhury but he did not respond to a request for comment. According to Hayes, Roychowdhury will graduate at the end of the fall semester.

“I had a few applicants come in,” Hayes said. One of these applicants will be chosen as a replacement justice. “From there, I’ll have any of the justices who are interested in being chief justice submit some short … statement of intent,” he added.

Student Court is largely intended to function as a check on SA and it is standard policy for the SA president to appoint court justices. Additionally, SA is not bound to any decisions the court makes that may impact its members.

According to Article 7 Section 1 Item H of the Student Court Guidelines, “In matters where an SA Organization is charged with violating SA or college policy, the Court will render its opinion along with a recommendation for sanctions against the organization. The SA Executive Committee may choose to enact these sanctions.”

In Rebban’s experience, SA executives have chosen to follow these recommendations in the past. “It’s like, you know, ‘Do the right thing,’ because it’s an unbiased party looking at it from the outside in,” she said.

“[Student Court] is a good check just in that, a lot of times, we’re just here and we do a lot of the functions—just day to day stuff—and maybe somebody does have an issue,” Hayes said. “It’s nice to have that third party that is familiar with all of our policies and regulations but just has that outside perspective.”

Toth expressed the belief that there is too little awareness of the court’s existence among students.

“I think that if groups and organizations knew they had that resource, they would consider it when dealing with their own budgets or other issues that might come up,” Toth said. “The biggest issue facing Student Court is that people just aren’t aware of it as an option.”