Committee votes to keep SG chief justice in office

After almost two months of speculation and deliberation, the Judicial Review Committee (JRC) voted that Student Government Chief Justice Sarah Heikkinen will not be removed from her position.

“I think that (the committee) did a really good job in being unbiased and showing all sides of the case and not letting people get focused on what they think happened,” Heikkinen said. “I think overall the committee made the best decision possible.”

The JRC placed Heikkinen on a probation period, during which she must attend a minimum of five counseling sessions with SG adviser Gary Manka, write five two-page reflection papers and a final 10-page paper.

The JRC recommended a revision of the approval process for travel expenditures to prevent another controversy regarding travel along with the development and implementation of a new training program for all new supreme court justices.

Heikkinen was deemed eligible for consideration of re-appointment to the position of chief justice in the future by the JRC, but Student Body President Juan Soltero has already appointed a new chief justice, Mari Loly Orozco. Before Orozco can be hired, however, she must go before the SG senate to be questioned and confirmed.

Until then, Heikkinen is still the SG chief justice.

In April, the SG senate voted to impeach Heikkinen on two charges brought forth by SG Attorney General Cordell Chavis.

The first charge involved a January trip to Washington, D.C. attended by Heikkinen, seven other justices and the judicial clerk.

During the impeachment trial, Heikkinen said the purpose of the trip was to study other universities’ Academic Integrity Programs and judicial branches, as well as attend a Supreme Court hearing.

Chavis said the main purpose of the trip was to see the presidential inauguration.

The JRC did not find Heikkinen guilty of misusing student funds, but stated in the official documents for the case of Heikkinen v. Student Government that the “reasons for the court’s decision to take their trip at this time, or the appropriateness of this act may be questionable.”

The JRC found Heikkinen at fault on the second charge. The charge involved an e-mail Heikkinen sent from her SG account that stated her opinion on the SG Election Rules Commission (ERC).

Later, Heikkinen refused to recuse herself from a trial involving the ERC. In doing so, the JRC found that Heikkinen violated the SG Judicial Code of Ethics.

Heikkinen said she plans to continue to be involved with SG, as a justice of the supreme court.