Voters to decide on fate of ASUCD Judicial Branch

GENESIA TING / AGGIE
GENESIA TING / AGGIE

Senate passes ballot initiative to dissolve judiciary

On this quarter’s Associated Students of the University of California, Davis (ASUCD) ballot is a proposition to eliminate the ASCUD judiciary. The bill, written by ASUCD Internal Affairs Commission Chair Nick Flores, was placed on the ballot 26 calendar days before the election. Ballot initiatives must be voted on by the senate four weeks before the election for constitutionality.

“I interpreted the Constitution’s time frame for legislative ballot measures to mean they are acceptable so long as they are passed in the fourth week ahead of the election,” Flores said via e-mail. “Per my interpretation of the constitution, this measure is constitutional, as the election is being held in the fourth week following the passage of the bill.”

According to ASUCD President Alex Lee, the Judicial Branch is in charge of interpreting the ASUCD Constitution.

“Interpretation of the Constitution is constitutionally left to the Judicial Branch which I have tried to appoint justices to,” Lee said via e-mail. “As an executive, I personally favor pragmatism and the spirit of our governing documents over the exact wording.”

Flores leads the initiative to dissolve the judiciary mainly due to his belief that the branch is unnecessary. Although the measure is on this quarter’s ballot, he originally tested the idea of dissolving the Court with ASUCD last quarter.

“I talked with current ASUCD officials as well as ASUCD alumni to learn as much as I could about the history of the court, and did some research about their various rulings throughout the years,” Flores said via e-mail. “Our conversations were never held with animosity toward any [specific] justices; rather, we discussed how the court as an institution has served the association, and if it is worth keeping around. I don’t see a place for the court […], as they maintain no unique powers that do not already exist in ASUCD. That is why I wrote the bill.”

Flores saw it best to completely disband the court than try to amend its processes.

“Constitutionally, ‘The Association is…constituted to create and provide services and activities which its membership shall consider important to fulfilling the experience of being a student attending the University of California, Davis,’ and I decided that the court ultimately is not vital to fulfilling ASUCD’s constituted duties,” Flores said via e-mail. “I discussed with senate about whether we should revitalize the court or dissolve it altogether, and we ultimately decided it no longer functions in ASUCD.”

However, Chief Justice Malcolm Rivera believes that this inutility comes from a lack of support from the other two branches.

“The problem I have with the ballot measure is, the main argument is that the court is useless,” Rivera said. “[…] I have been chief justice for nearly a year and I have yet to preside over a court meeting because the president and senate have not been as quick as they probably should have been in appointing new justices.”

Rivera holds that the ASUCD Senate and Executive are biased towards the court.

“As long as I’ve been a part of the court, there’s been this conception that members of the court are unqualified to interpret the Constitution,” Rivera said. “When a controversial decision is made, or really any decision is made, there’s one member of ASUCD who says that we aren’t doing our jobs correctly. I’m not going to lie and say that it doesn’t bother me when I was actively part of the court and we were holding meanings, it was very disheartening and very frustrating for me to have people tell me, every time I do my job, I did it wrong. Opinions […] rendered by the court and those opinions not being accepted has caused animosity between the judiciary and the other two branches.”

Additionally, Rivera believes that much of the court’s “uselessness” comes from constitutional issues being handled internally, rather than through the courts.

“I think that the court has a purpose as a mediator between the other two branches, but there needs to be a higher emphasis on, one, not solving unconstitutional activities internally, and two, a higher emphasis on the attorney general being very active in searching out for potential complaints within the ASUCD,” Rivera said.

Rivera did offer his own view of how the court system could be repaired, believing that there are “ways to work around that problem” that don’t go as far as entirely cutting out the system.

“I personally believe that if quorum was lowered from five to three, for example, and then the overall size of the court was also lowered, that could get around that issue.” Rivera said. “We would be able to have meetings and we would be able to accept court cases, which we haven’t done in four and a half quarters. I think it’s unfair to say we don’t handle enough court cases when we are unable to even give responses to court cases because we don’t have quorum.”

Students can vote on this ballot measure alongside senate candidates from Nov. 8 at 8:00 a.m. until Nov. 11 at 12 a.m. at elections.ucdavis.edu.

Written by: Kenton Goldsby — campus@theaggie.org