Student Court dismisses complaint requesting timeline to split SA into two bodies

Updated: Sept. 4, 2020 at 8:43 p.m.

A complaint filed by Student Association graduate members regarding the separation of the group into separate graduate and undergraduate bodies was unanimously dismissed by the Student Court last week.

Then-SA Sen. AJ Link, Law-G, and current SA Sen. Robert Witte, G-at-Large, filed a complaint to the Court in late April after a piece of legislation did not pass in the SA Senate that would have created a timeline to split the SA into an undergraduate and graduate body, following a student referendum in favor of the division. Associate Judge Yun-Da Tsai authored the concurrence along with Chief Judge Maggie O’Brien and associate judges Francheska Salazar and Isabella Sorial, stating that the complaint does not fall into the Court’s jurisdiction and should be addressed by legislation from SA senators.

“Recent events across the past couple of academic years involving the Student Association allude to an undergraduate-graduate divide that has threatened to derail the activities of the two sister branches of the Court and spawned multiple rounds of litigation at the Court,” the concurrence states.

The judges received the complaint on the last day of the spring term, but judges delayed action on the complaint because the Court does not have a summer term, the concurrence states. The complaint requested the judges to rule the SA is required to create a timeline to split the Senate into separate graduate and undergraduate bodies by 2024, but the concurrence states that the Court’s intervention could lead to the end of the SA because of “recent events” over the past years that have threatened to halt all activities of the SA.

“Surely, before even considering drastic actions by Court fiat that seek to displace the preexisting constitutional order, other avenues for pursuing structural reform ought to be considered?” the concurrence states.

After Link’s graduation from GW Law, Witte – the now sole plaintiff of the complaint – has control of the matters moving forward. Legislation proposing the separation of the SA has not been brought to the senate floor since the complaint in April so the Court does not see fit to intervene before other actions are proposed by SA senators, the concurrence states.

“There is no good reason for me to even begin to fathom granting relief that would be tantamount to the Court dictating the terms and processes for future legislation on such a sensitive and critical subject when multiple possible avenues exclusively available to Senators have not yet been exhausted,” the concurrence states.

Tsai, the judge who authored the concurrence, deferred comment to the concurrence. Witte did not return multiple requests for comment.

This post has been updated to correct the following:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that the Court delayed action on the complaint because of the switch to online classes during the spring semester. The Court delayed its review because the complaint was received on the last day of the spring term, and the Court does not have a summer term. We regret this error.

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