Student Government Judicial Court

In a ruling Wednesday, the Student Government Judicial Court invalidated the external and internal appointments made by the new SG administration on April 29, stating that the SG executive board violated the organization's governing rules as they apply to disclosing applicant information.

The appointments, which were confirmed by the SG general assembly last month, will need to be reconfirmed when SG meets for the first time in the fall semester. According to SG Chief Justice Philip Wiseman, the executive board may nominate the same people to the internal and external positions, or choose new candidates for the positions.

The ruling said “should members of the executive branch choose to nominate future appointments for any internal or external positions, the Chief of Staff must make all documentation publicly available…”

Despite the lack of interview notes prior to the April 29 meeting, the assembly confirmed all internal and external positions except for the Texas Student Media Board of Operating Trustees.

The ruling was made after Andrew Wilson, outgoing Liberal Arts Council president, filed a petition for review regarding the process of nominating students to positions for Spirit and Traditions Council chair, Faculty Council Student Life Committee chair and any other position in which a nominee who was nominated to a position that was not their first choice.

The executive board addressed the concerns for the nomination of the three committees by deciding to leave the positions unfilled. However, Wilson still asked that the court consider all other positions.

According to Wilson, the process was not transparent because the executive board failed to publicly release interview questions, responses and additional notes of potential nominees.

“The only way to [be transparent] is by releasing notes from the interviews, which the chief of staff has failed to do,” Wilson said.

Despite a court ruling in early April asking the executive board to release all interview notes before the April 29 meeting, Chief of Staff Chris Jordan said the board decided not to do so in order to protect information that students disclosed in interviews.

According to the court’s opinion, these concerns “cannot overcome public interests of combating corruption and ensuring transparency…”

SG President Kori Rady said he stands by protecting the information in the interview notes, but hopes to increase communication with the assembly.

“There were some things that were pretty intimate during the interviews,” Rady said. “That was our concern and that was why the interview notes were not released prior to appointment.”

Rady said he hopes to work with the assembly to make sure privacy concerns are addressed while interviewing candidates.

Court upholds Gardner and Guevara disqualification

 

The Student Government Judicial Court upheld the disqualification of former SG presidential candidates Madison Gardner and Antonio Guevara and denied their appeal of the Election Supervisory Board’s disqualification today.

 

Gardner and Guevara petitioned the court for a rehearing of the complaints that disqualified them last week, claiming the Board had committed procedural error and subsequently violated their Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution. The court stated they agreed with the Board’s judgment to disqualify the candidates because they failed to file accurate financial disclosure statements.

 

At the hearing, Alden Harris, Judicial Court chief justice, said while the court should look to the U.S. Constitution for guidance, the document applies specifically to Congress and state actors.

 

Gardner stated the decision disqualifying him and Guevara violated procedure for several reasons. Regarding their disregard of an earlier fine issued by the Board, he stated the Board failed to give him and Guevara 24-hour notice of a complaint filed against them and build a council for their defense. He also said the complaint was filed by Board chair Eric Nimmer, who is prohibited from making complaints under the Election Code.

 

The court affirmed Nimmer did not file a complaint against Gardner and Guevara, although he did address concerns not filed in the original complaint filed by SG law school representative Austin Carlson.

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Gardner also stated Sunday this was a violation of his Sixth Amendment right under the U.S. Constitution, which grants him the right to be informed of any complaint against him to build a council for his defense.

 

Aakash Kumar represented Gardner at the hearing and said the court should judge their decision by a document that governs the United States, not by the judgment of the Election Supervisory Board.

 

"The ESB is not a court of law," the court said in a statement issued today. "And though certain procedural safeguards do exist to protect the candidates from prejudice or insufficient process, the code is designed to permit the ESB enough procedural leeway to hear and decide complaints in a timely and efficient manner."

 

John Lawler and Thor Lund are the only presidential candidates that remain. Elections will be held March 28 and 29.

Charles Maddox, former chair and current emeritus member of the Election Supervisory Board, consults with ESB member Cody Permenter during the Gardner and Guevara appeal, Sunday afternoon.

Photo Credit: Zachary Strain | Daily Texan Staff

The Student Government Judicial Court is set to determine whether the Election Supervisory Board violated procedure in administering the disqualification of former SG candidates Madison Gardner and Antonio Guevara today.

The candidates appealed the Board’s ruling last Thursday and claimed the Election Supervisory Board violated procedure when evaluating a complaint against their campaign. In their appeal, Gardner and Guevara claim the Board violated their Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution and petitioned to have their disqualification be reassessed by the Board.

Gardner stated the Board infringed on his and Guevara’s constitutional rights because they tried them twice for procuring services from a professional web designer, a violation of the Fifth Amendment that protects people against double jeopardy. The Board ruled on Feb. 10 the candidates did not violate any rules because the designer in question, James Skidmore, is a student at Texas A&M and not a professional. The Election Code requires candidates report all professional services at fair market value even if they were granted said services at a discounted rate.

Gardner also claimed the Board violated their Sixth Amendment right, alleging Board chair Eric Nimmer filed a complaint against them during the hearing for not reporting an earlier campaign fine issued by the Board. Furthermore, Gardner claimed they were not given a hearing for this infraction. This violation, stated Gardner in the argument, denied them of the right to be informed, to be confronted of the witnesses against them and to have the assistance of a counsel for their defense.

Nimmer said he does not feel the Board’s decision violated the U.S. Constitution. He also said he did not file a complaint against the candidates but had discovered a violation during the hearing, which the rules allow. He said he received a blank financial statement from the candidates March 19 along with a message stating they had not incurred any expenses or received contributions since the disclosure they submitted on Feb. 15.

Aakash Kumar, who represented Gardner and Guevara to the Judicial Court, said the court must look toward the U.S. Constitution as a guideline for their decision.

“Think about this in term of intent,” Kumar said, claiming the candidates did not intend to falsify their documents to gain an advantage. “Apply a [Constitutional] higher standard when you’re making a decision, a standard we govern living by. Outside of this, we don’t live on what the ESB said.”

Kumar also said the punishments delivered by the court were too severe for the mistakes they had committed, which were not willful and blatant. To support this claim, Kumar cited the case of current SG president Natalie Butler and vice president Ashley Baker. Butler and Baker acquired approximately $405 in fines, more than 50 percent of their campaign budget, last semester and were tried for violating campaigning rules during moratorium multiple times but were not disqualified.

The Election Code has since changed since Butler and Baker ran. Last year, candidates were not penalized for the amount of fines they acquired. Today, candidates who exceed 20 percent of their total campaign budget in fines are
automatically disqualified.

At the hearing, candidate Guevara said he did not know he had sent Nimmer inaccurate financial documents and that they had accidentally sent the wrong file.

Nimmer said the hearing was the first time he had heard the wrong document had been sent, but he affirmed that the candidates had taken no prior action to rectify the mistake on their financials and would still be disqualified.

He said last year the Election Code required candidates actions to be proven blatant and willful to merit disqualification, a clause that does not exist in the code this year. He said the Board does not have to determine whether a candidate’s actions are willful and blatant because it does not matter anymore.

“Their only defense was not that they didn’t do it,” Nimmer said. “But that ‘it’s our bad and you guys were nicer last year.’ And I don’t care, because the Election Code says our Board has discretion and that’s nine people.”