USG finalizes new judicial council

Adrienne Underwood, News Editor

Tulane Undergraduate Student Government introduced and passed new bylaws for its judicial council at the second session of the 20th Senate on Tuesday, Sept. 5, in Joseph Merrick Jones Hall.

The new bylaws outline the logistics, specific powers and jurisdiction of the council, created by last year’s 19th Senate. 

The judicial council’s purpose is to hear external student complaints that can be filed if students believe that USG decisions are contrary to the USG constitution. The council will discuss complaints, deliver a verdict and potentially, according to Article XI of the USG constitution, “conduct unbiased action.”

The council also allows students-at-large to have a greater involvement in USG. Students can directly voice concerns to the council without contacting an individual USG senator to act as a liaison. The council was created to address “the increased spotlight on the need for transparency, student accessibility and senator accountability,” according to the proposal to create the judicial council.

“Every decision the body makes is not perfect, and we encourage students to keep up with the proceedings of USG and speak out when it is needed,” USG Executive Vice President Erin Blake said. “This branch will make our body more productive and responsive to the needs of our students, the people we were elected to represent.”

The legislation was authored by Blake, Senator Lea Davis, former Senator Olivia Manz, former Senator Libby Aldridge and former Secretary Dan Lasky.

“The judicial council was created when it became apparent our system lacked a confidential and efficient forum that allows for students and organizations to appeal a decision made by USG,” Blake said.

Appeals may be brought to the council by either individual students or organizations. Following the council’s verdict, the senate may pass responsive legislation, including redistribution of funds or calls to evaluate the statuses of student organizations. Council decisions may be vetoed by a two-thirds majority of USG Senate.

The council consists of five appointed student justices, including one chief justice and four associate justices.

Council justices must be Tulane students in one of the five undergraduate schools for at least two semesters and follow the rules and regulations of their respective school. Justices must also plan to attend Tulane for a full year during their appointment and may not serve USG in another capacity during their tenure on the judicial council.

Justices will be selected by an application on OrgSync, an interview with the executive board and USG adviser, and confirmation by a two-thirds majority of the senate.

Upon confirmation, justices must disclose their involvement in Tulane organizations to prevent conflicts of interest when reviewing complaints, in which case justices will not be allowed to judge.

USG members voiced concerns that the two-thirds majority of the Senate required to veto council decisions could present a potential power imbalance between the council and the rest of USG.

“I am worried about the balance of power,” Julien Bourgeois, senator for the School of Science and Engineering, said. “I want to make sure it is not too powerful. Their ability to overturn legislation could be an issue.”

Blake said in response that the chief justice’s ability to self-nominate with confirmation by Senate, rather than being internally selected, will help balance power.

Applications for the judicial council are now open on the USG OrgSync page under “Forms” and will be live until 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 27.

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