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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Bill to address ‘shortcomings’ of Judicial Court

Student+Senate
Photo by Photo By: Olivia Adam
Student Senate

Speaker of the Student Senate Aaron Mitchell presented a bill at Wednesday’s Student Senate meeting to fix inadequacies he said he has seen in the Judicial Court. 

In his opening statement, Mitchell said over the period spanning both the 67th and 68th senate sessions, he has observed a multitude of problems in the operation of the court.

 “I come [to address the senate] after observing judicial shortcomings over the past year and a half,” Mitchell said.

In his opening statement, Mitchell said during the 67th and 68th Student Senate sessions, he has observed a number of problems in the operation of the J-Court.

“I come to you today to defend the rule of law in our student government association,” Mitchell said. “I come after observing judicial shortcomings over the past year and a half.”

In an internal memo to other senators, Mitchell characterized the issues as a lack of adherence to the SGA constitution. Mitchell said the Judicial Court has rendered decisions and issued writs that are incongruent with both the constitution and the court’s own by-laws.

Mitchell proposed an amendment to the SGA Constitution that would require the Judicial Court Justices’ terms begin and end with the beginning and ending of Student Senate. Rather than giving the Justices tenure for the remainder of their time at A&M, Mitchell said yearly conformation should be required.

“I am proposing a constitutional amendment which will change the way we select judicial court justices,” Mitchell said. “It will also change their tenure, which for the past four years has been lifetime.”

Mitchell said he believes this guaranteed tenure has led to an unaccountable court that disregards their constitutional duties, but that rather than impeach the court — a much more drastic measure — he favors reformation of the system. 

“I believe it’s led to an unaccountable judicial court,” Mitchell said. “[rather than impeachment] I would rather reform the process — I would rather have their terms end whenever this session of senate ends.”

Chief Justice Jake Smith, during his report on the affairs of the Judicial Court, opened by quoting Alexander Hamilton’s writings in The Federalist Papers. Reading from Federalist #78, Smith articulated Hamilton’s argument that the role of the Judiciary requires it to be independent of the other branches of government, a requirement he said was being infringed upon by Mitchell’s proposed legislation.

“It is unusual for the chief justice to take a stance on a bill, but this one will fundamentally destroy the system of checks and balances and will impede the justices ability to act impartially and objectively,” Smith said. “Your constituents elected you to represent their interests, not form factions and blindly follow the decisions made by leaders.”

Student Body President Joseph Benigno agreed J-Court Justices’ lifetime tenure is important. Benigno said it speaks to the integrity of the court, allowing them to make impartial decisions. 

“I think lifetime tenure for our J-Court Justices is really important,” Benigno said. “It speaks to the integrity of the court and that’s what they need to be based on. That’s the most important thing.”

Benigno said the points about the court’s adherence to the constitution were not without merit, but that a restructuring of the fundamental nature of the court was not in his opinion the best way to address them.

“There are better ways to go about addressing issues than trying to change the fundamental nature of the court,” Benigno said.

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