Undergraduate Student Government approved four new associate justices to the organization’s judicial council at its Tuesday meeting. USG President Mikey Geragos selected the justices based on their wide range of diversity and interests on campus.
The bylaws of USG’s constitution require there be six associate justices and one chief justice sitting on USG’s judicial board at a given time. A justice can serve a maximum term of 48 months, so once appointed, most justices serve until they graduate.
Though a permanent branch of the organization, the judicial board is activated mostly during the election cycle to serve as an outlet for students to express any grievances with student government.
The judicial branch has historically served a more silent role. Chief Justice Jaime Castrellon, a junior majoring in political science and neuroscience, said he believes the judicial branch is supposed to have a subtle role.
“It’s a way for the students to directly challenge an issue that they may take issue with or they find unfair for whatever reason,” Castrellon said. “[Students] always have that option to come to us and file a complaint. We’re an open space for students to just come to us.”
Compared to student government’s legislative and executive branches, Castrellon said he does not believe the judicial branch and its members are as publicized on the USG website. Castrellon also believes another reason why the judicial branch is less identifiable is because its deliberations are private and it plays a more passive role in campus life.
“You hear more about the senate and executive branch during the election cycle,” Castrellon said. “Justices must remain completely impartial and cannot support any candidate in general.”
To file a complaint, students are required to go to USG’s office in the Ronald Tutor Campus Center. Castrellon hopes this system can be updated to give students the option of filling out online complaint forms, as it will also make the process more efficient.
“The judicial council’s duty is to respond in the most expedited manner,” Castrellon said.
Justices are required to respond to complaints within seven days, but during the election cycle they must have a quicker turnaround of 24 hours.
The legislative and executive board elections for USG will take place starting in February. Applications are available online and print applications will be available beginning Nov. 27.
As the new election cycle gets underway, Castrellon expects the justices to become more active. In the past, they have dealt with violations ranging from sign placement to illegal early campaigning.
“Our powers are limited to when we hear cases and to the issues that have been brought up to us,” he said. “But if we find that some action that was taken or legislation that was passed was in violation of the constitution then it is our duty to rectify the situation.”
Though Castrellon considers his job to be reactionary, the chief justice recognizes that the justices might not be addressing all the student body’s needs.
“It isn’t often that we hear complaints,” Castrellon said. “I don’t know if it’s because students aren’t having any problems or because there’s a disconnect.”
Despite the concerns, Geragos said the justices are an integral part of the organization and lead it in the right direction.
“They definitely strengthen USG by making us accountable to our rules and essentially just holding USG and its members accountable,” Geragos said.
According to Geragos, justices provide an additional check and balance to student government.
“They’re a great unbiased board and they’re not necessarily supposed to be the most outward body,” Geragos said. “But it does need to be available to students who have a problem or for student government members who need something to be brought to their attention.”
The newly appointed justices are Jared Ginsberg, Nerses Aposhian, Logan Lochman and Erick Nelson. The returning justices are Melinda Foletta and Anthony Wu.