The Supreme Court of Associated Students of ASU is an organization that not many students are aware of, and even fewer know what the Court actually does. Here is an overview of who is on the Court and what it does.
Who is a part of the Supreme Court?
The ASASU Constitution established five members of the Supreme Court — one appointed by each campus, and a fifth seat that rotates between the campuses every year.
Tempe: Chase Walther
Downtown: Amanda Lombard
Polytechnic: Nolan Murphy
West: Fatuma Haji and Mateo Rios
The students are nominated by the president of their campus's Undergraduate Student Government. The nominees must then be approved through a vote by the campus's USG Senate.
Lombard, a freshman public service and public policy major, said she applied for the position because of her interest in law and the unique opportunity being a Supreme Court Justice gave her.
"It was a great way for me to get involved in my school and also to kind of start experimenting more with the legal field in a way that otherwise I wouldn't really get a chance to," Lombard said. "Getting to serve in a judicial role that otherwise I'm not going to be able to easily find as a college student really appealed to me."
Rios, a junior majoring in environmental science, said the Supreme Court offers a valuable service to the student body when it comes to settling disputes with the student government.
"I think it's really important that such a large university actually has dedicated judicial courts to handle all these things," Rios said.
What do they do?
According to the rules and procedures of the Supreme Court, the court is meant to provide a “fair and equitable” way of resolving disputes that regards the ASASU Constitution, the bylaws of the branches of USG and the Graduate Professional Student Association. Cases involving GPSA specifically are heard by the GPSA Judiciary Committee.
Lombard said it is important for students to know that the court's jurisdiction includes cases involving ASASU members and not just any grievance a student may have.
"It's really an appeals process and for things that are going on in the government," Lombard said. "It's not like 'Oh hey, I'm mad at my friend, decide this for us.'"
There are two different complaints that a student can file. One is a general complaint made against a member of ASASU. The other is an election appeal, when a student "disagrees with a decision made by the Elections Department."
When there is no case currently in front of the Supreme Court, its members still have to be aware of any updates made to the ASASU Constitution and the various campuses' bylaws.
"The Supreme Court, when it's not hearing a case, basically has to keep up on any rules that are changing, any bylaws, just knowing what's going on on campus," Rios said.
The petition process
The Supreme Court appeals form is available on the court's website.
Appeal forms must be submitted to Director for the Advancement of Student Initiatives Dan Ashlock and the ASASU Supreme Court Clerk.
The clerk then decides if the case is filed correctly and whether it will be passed on to the Supreme Court.
"If it's something we can't handle, the person who's bringing it to us doesn't have the standing to bring it to us, they don't make an arguable claim or there's no substantial way that the court can make an action on this petition, it will be dismissed," Lombard said.
The defendant will then have a chance to respond to a petition filed against them.
After reading through the petition and the response, the court then hears oral arguments from both sides. Each side is given 15 minutes to speak during which the court may ask questions. After both sides speak, they are given 10 more minutes for rebuttals and for the judges to ask any follow up questions.
The judges deliberate over a case in private, using evidence provided and any precedent they deem relevant. After deliberations, the judges will vote and the majority determines the decision.
Past issues with the Court
Not all students who file a complaint make it to the oral argument stage.
David Howman, the president of College Libertarians and a graduate student studying justice studies, said absences on the court meant that his club's lawsuit could not go through.
"They didn't have a quorum for the Supreme Court so they couldn't hear any cases until they had that quorum, which didn't happen for the rest of the year," Howman said.
According to the rules and procedures of the Supreme Court, "The Court may not sit to adjudicate disputes without at least four eligible Justices."
Since the court did not meet its quorum before the end of the year, the College Libertarians lawsuit did not go anywhere. The club decided not to try resubmitting their complaint this year.
"We felt like it was just better for everyone if we more or less move on and just try to collaborate with the new USG this year instead of dwelling on the past," Howman said. "Basically, we never really got any sort of justice."
The court currently has a quorum because all its seats are filled. Howman said for any students looking to file a complaint with the Supreme Court, it is important to follow up on its status.
"Don't be afraid to bother people to get responses," Howman said.