SG justice resigns days after election decision
Less than a week after the Student Government Supreme Court made its controversial decision to nullify the results of the student body presidential election, one of the justices hearing the case has decided to leave the Court.
The Court’s decision came by way of a 3-1-1 ruling, with the two latter votes being two different dissenting opinions.
Former Justice David Brickhouse, who cast one of the dissenting votes, said the dissenting opinion he wrote was edited by Chief Justice Kristina Lawrence against his wishes.
“To censure a justice’s right to write an opinion is not an infraction that I can live with,” Brickhouse wrote in his resignation letter.
According to Lawrence, the situation is a case of miscommunication, and no changes were made to his original dissenting opinion. Lawrence also said all justices had to approve the overall opinion document of the Court before it was released, and if Brickhouse had a problem with the contents, it should have been brought up then.
Brickhouse, who produced an original dissenting opinion with paragraphs at the end that were not part of the Court’s released opinion, said the removed portion of his dissenting opinion was mostly in regards to campaign reimbursement.
The majority opinion document released by the Court had its reasoning for nullifying the election results; that it found the Election Rules Commission to have broken several of its own rules throughout the election, as well as specific directions as to how a new election should be held.
In that seven-page document, the Court said since it determined the elections were nullified through the fault of the ERC, rather than the fault of the candidates, the tickets should be reimbursed, with Activity and Service fee monies, for half of their campaign expenses. It adds the money could help defray the costs associated with running campaigns for the new election.
A&S money comes from money paid by students as part of their tuition.
In Brickhouse’s unedited dissenting opinion, he notes A&S monies are statutorily prohibited from going toward any campaign.
“It is my position that clearly violating Student Government Statutes in an attempt to remedy alleged violations is not in the best interests of the student body as a whole,” Brickhouse wrote.
Brickhouse also expressed concern with the anonymity of the votes regarding the nullification of the election results.
According to multiple past and present justices, votes by the Court are rarely made public, but that decision is at the Court’s discretion. Lawrence mentioned that one of the main reasons that voting records have been secret is because past justices have been threatened and harassed as a result of votes.
Brickhouse said he wanted to sign his dissenting opinion and justices should be held accountable for their decisions.
Many SG senators also want to know how each justice voted, but many have also admitted they want to know for purposes of pursuing impeachment charges against the justices who voted to nullify the election results.
The election results the Court wants nullified have senate President Frank Harrison and senator Faran Abbasi victorious. Many senators supported the pair’s student body presidential candidacy.
Lawrence was familiar with the intents of senators and said the idea of impeaching justices for their opinions was appalling.
“It’s completely unconstitutional and a complete slap in the face of democracy,” Lawrence said.
In his letter, Brickhouse said he felt “there are many changes that need to be made in regards to the Court.”
Brickhouse also said he wants to see the problems of the Court fixed, but he could not do it while still on the Court.
“I felt the only way to pursue justice was from outside the Court,” Brickhouse said.
Brickhouse said he might either request a senate investigation into what he considers Lawrence’s abuse of power used to edit his dissenting opinion, or he may just bring the claims up if an already existing committee investigating Lawrence brings up charges of impeachment.
Lawrence is being investigated by a five-senator committee regarding her decision to stay on the bench for the hearing that led to the Court’s controversial decision. Some felt Lawrence should have recused herself from the hearing because of alleged close friendships and/or relationships with individuals close to the hearing.
The ERC has certified the election results with Harrison and Abbasi victorious while the Court has deemed those results null and void and said a new election should take place. Student Affairs has been looking into the situation, and a decision as to which opinion will stand should be released sometime this week.