SG Judicial Court

Internal and external Student Government positions were not officially sworn in by the SG Judicial Court on Tuesday night because of controversies surrounding external
appointments nominations.

All internal positions were confirmed by the assembly during Tuesday’s meeting but won’t be officially sworn in until the court issues a decision next week, according to SG Chief Justice Philip Wiseman. As of press time, no external positions were confirmed.

Andrew Wilson, outgoing president of the Liberal Arts Council, submitted a petition claiming three external positions did not have applications filed for them and asked that all interview notes be made public.

Originally, executive board members were nominated in three positions: SG President Kori Rady as the chair of the Spirit and Traditions Council, Internal Financial Director Rachel Miller as the chair of Faculty Council Student Life Committee and Vice President Taylor Strickland as Faculty Council Rec Sports Committee chair. 

According to Chris Jordan, SG chief of staff, using an executive board member in an unfilled position is not an uncommon practice and allows the position to be filled by the Faculty Council’s deadline, so the position can be opened up again in the summer.

Wilson’s petition requested the court issue an injunction on the confirmations of the external nominations. 

The SG Judicial Court voted 3-2 against issuing a preliminary injunction motion. Wiseman said a court hearing will be scheduled next week.

“Confirmation hearings tonight are not the last step,” Wiseman said. “Making those public rulings will ultimately determine if the process was legitimate and followed appropriately.”

Last week, the court issued an opinion advising that the executive board publicize applications and interview transcripts 48 hours before this week’s agenda was released to the assembly.

The SG internal rules state the chief of staff must make public all applications for all appointees. Jordan said he released all the applications, but did not do so before the set deadline. As a result, the names were not allowed to be put on the agenda.

“For transparency purposes, I didn’t have all the interviews done 48 hours before the meeting,” Jordan said. 

Wilson said, without interview notes, the assembly would not be able to effectively evaluate the appointments.

“You can increase the legitimacy of the representative nature of SG by reopening the applications to other students, and they can fill them out over the summer, rather than just filing students in those positions who didn’t even fill out an application or probably even do an interview,” Wilson said.

Jordan said although Wilson has raised these concerns, he has not received a request from any member of the assembly for interview notes.

“The feeling of the assembly is that it’s kind of irrelevant,” Jordan said. “The internal rules says all interview questions and answers shall be made public by the staff, but it does not mention transcripts.”

Student Government President Kori Rady speaks at a debate on February 25. Three of the Rady’s male student nominations for the Student Government Executive board are currently in the spirit group Tejas.

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

Of the five nominees for Student Government Executive Board made by SG President Kori Rady and Vice President Taylor Strickland, four are men, and three are members of Tejas Club — a spirit organization to which Rady belongs — leading some SG members to express concerns about the board’s diversity.

The SG Judicial Court issued a decision requiring Rady and Strickland to make their appointments for the board public before 7 p.m. Sunday. SG representatives will vote to confirm or deny Rady and Strickland’s nominations for executive board positions Tuesday. These positions include internal financial director and external financial director and are voted on by the assembly.

University-wide representative Taral Patel said he was concerned about the lack of diversity on the executive board.

“I have a lot of friends in Tejas, but I think the executive board should be very diverse because they are going to be reflecting not only the platform point of the Rady-Strickland campaign but working on executing those platform points of a very diverse student body,” Patel said.

Patel, who is serving his first term on SG, said he is the only non-white University-wide representative and said he has heard complaints from students who want to see more diversity in the organization.

“I want to make sure those concerns are addressed and everyone is included in the conversation, not just folks that have been involved in SG,” Patel said. “We need to broaden our horizons and get more students involved.”

Liberal arts representative Tanner Long said the fact that a majority of the candidates are in Tejas did not concern him as much as the lack of diversity on the board.

“That shows that [Tejas] has something working, and I want to translate what they’re doing into other student organizations that don’t necessarily have the representation they need in Student Government,” Long said. 

Long said he plans to thoroughly question the nominees during the Q&A portion of Tuesday’s meeting to determine how he’s going to vote. 

“It’s really going to come down to how effectively they can communicate their ideas,” Long said. “I don’t think it should be an easy process for them to be appointed and be on the executive board.” 

Philip Wiseman, former chief justice for the SG Judicial Court, said a rule implemented in 2011 to increase transparency requires SG to make agendas public.

According to the court’s decision, Rady and Strickland were advised to make interview questions and application materials public to the assembly. Wiseman said all information was sent in Sunday night except for transcripts of the interviews, and it will be up to the assembly to decide if this affects their ability to make a decision.

Rady said he has made an effort to make everything public for the assembly for the benefit of the newly elected representatives. 

“I think [the judicial court] felt the need to make sure all the representatives who are relatively new [are] able to understand what the entire process was,” Rady said.

Clarification: This story contains a quotation that is not completely accurate. There are two non-white University-wide representatives: Taral Patel and Shannon Geison. 

Six weeks ago, the Student Government presidential and vice presidential races each had five candidates. After weeks of deliberation over the disqualification of candidates Madison Gardner and Antonio Guevara, the SG Judicial Court gave the final word Monday, leaving only two candidates on the ballot.

After more than six hours of deliberation and testimony from multiple parties, the SG Judicial Court sustained the Election Supervisory Board’s second disqualification of Gardner and Guevara Monday. Gardner said the court’s decision was tough to hear but said he did not plan to appeal to the Office of the Dean of Students or a Travis County court.

The SG presidential elections will take place Wednesday and Thursday of this week. The candidates are urban studies senior John Lawler and mechanical engineering senior Thor Lund.

Gardner said his and Guevara’s options for reinstatement on the ballot are limited at this point. He said he thinks the Board is biased against them because they disqualified Guevara and him twice.

“If you look at it, this is very unprecedented,” Gardner said. “There’s never been a disqualification like this over a small thing. If it were any other year, we wouldn’t have gotten disqualified. If it was any other candidate, we wouldn’t have gotten disqualified.”

Gardner said while he currently serves as external financial director for SG President Natalie Butler, he did not approve the Election Code because he does not vote on legislation. The SG General Assembly approved the Election Code on Jan. 17 with the association provision that disqualified Gardner and Guevara the first time.

The Board first disqualified the pair on Feb. 22 for associating with a candidate from another race. Gardner subsequently filed a lawsuit against UT for violating his First Amendment rights to association, but dropped the lawsuit when UT suspended the association provision for review on March 19 and reinstated him and Guevara.

“It’s unfortunate it really only takes five people to control the board,” Gardner said. “It’s unfortunate students weren’t able to decide. That’s the reality — we didn’t have a chance to get voted on. If our offenses are so serious let students decide that, not nine people.”

The SG General Assembly must look into the Election Code with diligence so unjust disqualifications do not happen in the future, Gardner said.

The candidates appealed their second disqualification last week, claiming the Board violated procedure when administering the disqualification, thereby violating their Fifth and Sixth Amendment constitutional rights. The Fifth Amendment protects people from being tried for the same offence twice, while the Sixth Amendment gives the affected party a right to know charges filed against him in order to gather a counsel.

Lawler said although the elections have lasted longer than he originally thought, he sees them as a test for him and running mate Terrence Maas. He said he and Maas have spent their time speaking at different organizations while the Election Supervisory Board and SG Judicial Court deliberated Gardner’s disqualification.

"[The prolonging of the elections] has been a distractor to all the positive things that have been going on with our campaign," Lawler said. “We’re not concerned with what’s fair and unfair at the moment, we’re trying to bring specific issues to light.”

Lund said a lot of students have been confused as to what exactly is going on in the SG presidential elections. Lund and running mate Wills Brown recently launched a campaign video entitled “Sh*t nobody says about SG elections” in an attempt to show students they sympathize with their frustration.

Lund said he feels the elections have been fair to his campaign.

“Fair is an interesting word because a lot of things aren’t fair, but I don’t feel that we’ve been wronged,” Lund said. “It’s not the situation that defines you, but how you perceive the situation.”

Lawler has not had any complaints filed against him during the elections. Lund has had one complaint filed against him by Gardner/Guevara campaign manager Alex Jones for copyright infringement, but he did not acquire any fines.

Gardner said he was very confident he and Guevara had a good chance of winning the elections and does not know if he will support a candidate for Wednesday’s and Thursday’s elections between Lawler and Lund. He said he does not know if he will stay at UT for another year to finish his Spanish degree or graduate with the McCombs School of Business in May.

If he does stay, he has not decided whether he will be involved in SG again.

“I’m not going to completely check out because I’m not president,” Gardner said. “A lot of me thinks it’s still possible to have an impact and improve campus and be a leader.”

Printed on Tuesday, March 27, 2012 as: Judicial Court upholds Gardner disqualification 

Madison Gardner and running mate Antonio Guevara were reinstated as Student Government presidential candidates Monday and will drop their reinstatement lawsuit against the University.

Dean of Students Soncia Reagins-Lilly released a statement Monday stating that her office has suspended the association provision in the SG Election Code and will review it in the coming months. Reagins-Lilly said the decision to reinstate Gardner and Guevara was made based upon advice from the University’s outside legal counsel. She said the Office of the Dean of Students will work with SG in the coming months to clarify the association clause that disqualified Gardner and Guevara.

The Election Supervisory Board and the SG Judicial Court disqualified Gardner and Guevara on Feb. 22 for associating their campaign with Carissa Kelley, a candidate for a position within the University Unions, via promotional materials such as their fliers, videos and website. The Election Code states no association between candidates of any kind will be tolerated and violation of the provision can result in a disqualification.

Gardner said he was excited to hear he and Guevara were back in the race and will be dropping the suit against the University. He said being reinstated was the only provision he asked for in the lawsuit, nothing else.

“I think it will be tough moving forward because whenever we go speak or campaign the first thing people are going to think is, ‘Oh, they’re the ones that filed a lawsuit,’” Gardner said. “But we just want to be positive, tell our story to as many students as possible and let the students decide who they want to be their next president and vice president.”

Gardner said he is ready to begin campaigning again and that he and Guevara may start speaking at the Greek houses this afternoon.

Charles Maddox, Election Supervisory Board Chair Emeritus, said the Board has to enforce the decision made by the University. Maddox said he stands by the Election Code the way it is written and Gardner did not say he felt his constitutional rights were being violated in his first hearing with the Board.

“We didn’t know that was going to be his defense until the lawsuit was filed,” Maddox said.

Maddox said even if Gardner brought it up in his request for appeal to the SG Judicial Court, the court does not have the right to determine whether a provision is constitutional or not.

“Even though you sue and you are automatically back on the ballot, ultimately you are still up for elections and the students still vote,” Maddox said. “They could still say they don’t want you in office. It’s up for the students to decide.”

The UT Student Government presidential elections will occur next week on March 28 and 29 with three candidates on the ballot – John Lawler, Thor Lund and Madison Gardner.

Recently disqualified SG candidates Madison Gardner, right, and Antonio Guevara, left, sit in the Travis County Courthouse shortly before a hearing Tuesday afternoon which issued Madison a temporary restraining order against the university - effectively postponing executive alliance elections for two weeks.

Photo Credit: Thomas Allison | Daily Texan Staff

A Travis County judge issued a termporary restraining order postponing the Student Government presidential and vice presidential elections for at least two weeks Tuesday.

Judge Tim Sulak will next review a suit filed by former presidential candidate Madison Gardner and running mate Antonio Guevara to decide whether they will be put back on the ballot. The Gardner campaign filed the suit against UT and SG on Monday claiming the Election Code the Election Supervisory Board and the SG Judicial Court used to disqualify them on Feb. 22 is a violation of their First Amendment rights to association under the U.S. Constitution.

The campus-wide elections for all other positions will still be held today and Thursday as planned, according to the official board opinion from chair Eric Nimmer.

The Board disqualified the campaign for associating with Student Events Center presidential candidate Carissa Kelley by including her in photos, videos, website banners and other campaign promotional materials. Under the Election Code, candidates are not allowed to associate with one another and any violation can result in immediate disqualification.

Sulak granted Gardner’s request for a temporary restraining order and said he granted it to give the parties who wish to be on the ballot, parties who are on the ballot and parties who wish to vote an opportunity to have the merits of the Election Code considered by the court. Gardner voted in favor of a version of the code that included the rule forbidding association between candidates for different races when he was a University-wide representative in 2010-2011. Gardner said when he voted for the code he was confused on the intent of the association provision and does not agree with the harshness of the penalty for violating that rule.

Austin lawyer Jason Snell is representing Gardner while Leo Barnes, associate vice president for legal affairs, is representing UT. Assistant Texas Attorney General Daniel Perkins is representing SG.

Patricia Ohlendorf, vice president for legal affairs, said Barnes expressed neutrality on behalf of the UT administration and requested guidance from the Court.

At the hearing, Snell said there will be no form of compensation for opportunities lost if Gardner and Guevara do not get a chance to run.

“Once Mr. Gardner graduates, there is no adequate remedy of law and there is no money to compensate them for lost opportunities to put [it] on their resume, transcript, applications,” Snell said. “All these good things that could result from being the president and vice president of one the greatest universities in the world.”

Gardner said he just wants the experience of serving the University for a year and representing students. Gardner said his campaign did not deserve a disqualification because Kelley is one of 40 people in the promotional materials and is not an SG candidate.

“We really believe in our cause,” Gardner said. “I really care about this and this University and the things I was looking forward to doing over the next year. I believe in it so much, I want to make sure I did everything I could have done to be on the ballot.”

On Sunday, Gardner said the majority of students are not represented by the presidential candidates John Lawler and Thor Lund, the only candidates remaining on the ballot after the disqualification of Yaman Desai and Ryan Shingledecker’s withdrawal.

Guevara is not named in the title of the suit, and he said Sunday he was uncomfortable with the idea of pursuing legal action.

SG President Natalie Butler said she found out about the lawsuit this afternoon and may be subpoenaed as an agent for SG. Butler said although Gardner serves as the external financial director for her executive board, this is not an act by her administration. This is the fourth consecutive year SG has faced problems in presidential and vice presidential elections.

“I don’t know if the Election Code is unconstitutional because it’s functioned before,” Butler said. “So I don’t know why it’s coming up now because it’s been in use for several years.”

Butler said this lawsuit is a poor reflection of SG that decreases voter turnout and gives students the impression SG is all about winning elections.

Candidate John Lawler testified at the hearing and said postponing the presidential and vice presidential election would hinder his campaign because he does not have the funds or resources to continue campaigning. Lawler said this lawsuit was putting students’ democracy at risk for the sake of two individuals.

“We feel if you grant this injunction you’re giving people who have the most money the [advantage],” Lawler said. “You’re favoring people who have the most time and resources that the typical student does not have.”

— Additional reporting by Audrey White and Thomas Allison

Published on Wednesday, February 29, 2012 as : SG presidental vote delayed

Student government candidates Madison Gardner and Antonio Guevara listen to Thor Lund and Wills Brown speak at Monday night’s debate. The Gardner campaign appealed to have its disqualification overturned, but the SG Judicial Court chose not to hear their appeal.

Photo Credit: Ryan Edwards | Daily Texan Staff

Madison Gardner and Antonio Guevara will be unable to reenter the Student Government presidential and vice presidential race after the SG Judicial Court declined to hear their appeal of the Election Supervisory Board’s disqualification.

The Election Supervisory Board disqualified Gardner and Guevara on Wednesday for including Student Events Center presidential candidate Carissa Kelley in their promotional materials, which include pictures, fliers and media on their website. Gardner and Guevara appealed the decision Thursday night and claimed Kelley told them she had no intention of running when the media was produced on Jan. 21. With Gardner’s disqualification, along with the disqualification of Yaman Desai and the withdrawal of Ryan Shingledecker, John Lawler and Thor Lund are the only remaining candidates in the SG presidential race.

Students had until Feb. 12 to sign up to run in the campus-wide elections and could begin campaigning Feb. 15.

Alexander Jones, Gardner and Guevara’s campaign manager, defended the campaign on Wednesday and said the complaint filed did not have genuine intentions, according to the board’s minutes. Jones also said the board had approved the campaign materials before they were distributed, so the Gardner campaign had no reason to believe they were problematic. Jasmine Kyles, who supported former candidates Yaman Desai and Whitney Langston, submitted the complaint on Tuesday.

“Since the disqualification, all the Yaman and Whitney media [produced] under Kyles has remained up online,” Jones said, according to the minutes. “This is evidence of her continued loyalty and support of said campaign.”

Jones said Desai and Langston continue to publicly oppose the Gardner and Guevara campaign. He said although Gardner and Guevara knew about the violation beforehand, it would have been difficult to completely rectify the damage or remove the materials.

“We believe that this complaint is an attack intended to hurt our campaign, not to ensure universal campaigning fairness,” Jones said. “We admit that it was a mistake that Kelley is included in our media.”

In a statement, Gardner said the campaign believes the board made the wrong decision and will continue to pursue its goals for the student body.

“We believe that the ESB was self-evidently incorrect in their decision,” he said in the statement. “Our team is not satisfied but are so very proud of our effort. We will continue our campaign to Unite Texas.”

Kyles said she had removed herself from the Desai and Langston campaign and she filed the complaint because she found it to be a violation of the code.

Kelley said she does not endorse Gardner and Guevara publicly and she had no intent to run at the time of the photos. She said she participated as a friend and the alleged violation was not deliberate.

Under the Election Code, only the presidential and vice presidential candidates may campaign together and any association between candidates of any kind will not be tolerated and can result in immediate disqualification.

The board stated the complaint had been filed in a reasonable amount of time to justify disqualification. It also said Gardner and Guevara have been in violation since they began campaigning on Feb. 15 and have made no known effort to remove or distort Kelley’s presence in their media.

Board chair Eric Nimmer said he was not surprised the SG Judicial Court had chosen not to grant Gardner and Guevara the appeal because the board had already gone through the disqualification procedures correctly. The Judicial Court can only act in situations when the board acts improperly. They have no authority to reverse decisions or alter sentences based on the content of a case.

“Everything [we] did I deemed as reasonable,” Nimmer said. “You do not have grounds for appeal unless there was a procedural error.”

Lawler said it was unfortunate that the race had to come down to this point and offered sympathy for those who participated in the Gardner and Guevara campaign. Lawler said he feels the disqualification will have a negative impact on voter turnout and SG’s image for next year.

“It’s unfortunate SG had to face these scandals yet another year,” he said. “But we encourage student voters to look past the scandals of today and look forward to what the two remaining campaigns will offer tomorrow.”

Lund said the disqualification was unfortunate but he will continue to move forward with his campaign. Lund said he offered his best to Gardner and Guevara.

Printed on Friday, February 24, 2012 as: Court denies Gardner, Guevara appeal

Madison Gardner listens to his running mate Antonio Guevara speak at Monday night’s SG debate. Gardner and Guevara were disqualified by the Election Supervisory Board for associating their campaign with Student Events Center presidential candidate Carissa Kelley, but will be appealing the ESB’s decision.

Photo Credit: Andrea Macias-Jimenez | Daily Texan Staff

Update on Feb. 23 at 11:37 p.m. - The SG Judicial Court has declined Gardner and Guevara's appeal of the ESB decision. The ESB decision stands and Gardner and Guevara are officially disqualified from the SG presidential race. As of now, John Lawler and Thor Lund are the only remaining presidential candidates.

Update at 1:30 a.m. - Gardner said his campaign plans to appeal the decision. "Our friends and supporters agree that this is the right thing to do and that the next student body president and vice president should be decided by the students," he said. "I will be the first to recognize that we made a mistake but I strongly feel that the resulting disqualification was excessive."

Gardner said his campaign took the picture for his promotional materials on Jan. 21, at which time Kelley told them she did not have the intent to run. Gardner said he does not know when the hearing will take place yet.

Update at 11:45 p.m.- Jasmine Kyles, who filed the complaint against Gardner and Guevara, released a statement on her website reading she did not act with malice when she submitted the complaint. SEC presidential candidate Carissa Kelley declined to comment. ESB vice-chair Truc Nguyen said it was not clear whether Kelley would be disqualified as that case has not reached the ESB.

Student Government presidential candidate Madison Gardner and running mate Antonio Guevara were disqualified by the Election Supervisory Board for associating their campaign with a candidate in another race.

The campaign came under fire for including Student Events Center presidential candidate Carissa Kelley in their promotional materials and online website. Only the presidential and vice presidential candidates are allowed to campaign together, according to the Election Code. All candidates in the campus-wide elections must campaign separately and any violation of this can be subject to immediate disqualification.

Broadcast journalism junior Jasmine Kyles filed the complaint against Gardner and Guevara, and the Election Supervisory Board heard the case Wednesday afternoon. The ESB said the Election Code did not mandate an immediate disqualification, but under the circumstances the action was appropriate.

In the official opinion delivered by ESB chair Eric Nimmer, the ESB stated the complaint was filed in a reasonable amount of time and Gardner and Guevara had been in violation since their campaign materials began distribution.

The ESB also stated the Gardner campaign did not demonstrate an effort to remove the incriminating promotional materials and media after being made aware of the violation. Gardner and Guevara allegedly knew about the violation before the complaint had been filed, according to the ESB.

Gardner and Guevara claimed it would have been difficult to remove the promotional materials already distributed on their flyers and website. However, the ESB declared the lack of any substantial action taken to remove the item as justifying the disqualification.

Gardner and Guevara have not responded to requests by The Daily Texan for a statement.

“Its unfortunate that the campaign was disqualified. However our campaign will continue forward with a positive message - changing Student Government and producing results next year,” said presidential candidate John Lawler.

Lawler and candidate Thor Lund are the only presidential candidates left if the SG Judicial Court does not overturn the ESB’s decision as candidate Ryan Shingledecker withdrew Tuesday. Lund said it was unfortunate that Gardner and Guevarra were disqualified, but rules are rules and he wishes the pair the best in the future.

Nimmer said Kyles was part of the Yaman Desai and Whitney Langston campaign before that campaign was disqualified Monday. Nimmer said Gardner and Guevara were planning to appeal the decision.

“It’s one of the simplest interpretations of the rules. If you read the language it is very strong,” Nimmer said. “No association between candidates will be tolerated. I do not believe the decision will be overturned.”

Printed on Thursday, February 23, 2012 as: Madison, Antonio under fire