Student Court judges overhaul rules, procedures to replace ‘vague’ guidelines

Media Credit: File Photo by Sydney Walsh | Staff Photographer

Members of the court spent months reworking the Student Court's bylaws to eliminate confusion for the judges and parties before the court.

Student Court judges overhauled their governing documents late last month for the first time in more than seven years, arranging court procedures and case deadlines for students to easily access online.

The judges – two undergraduate and three graduate students – outlined initiatives in May for the academic year, like updating the body’s rules and procedures with lengthened guidelines and increasing virtual access to formal complaint documents. Associate Judge Yun-Da Tsai said he spent months reworking the bylaws and procedures and compiling past court decisions for students to find online.

“The thing is that the old bylaws and I think the old procedures were basically just the first level,” he said. “It was just, ‘this is how you fill out a complaint, and here’s the general timeline of basis. Things may happen. Who knows?’ And that’s it.”

Throughout the summer, the judges updated their rules and procedures, now on the Student Association website, which allows all parties to look through the judicial handbook to assess how to address their complaint to the judges, Tsai said.

He said all procedures for the court are now “uniform” and available for public access on the court’s virtual page, which includes a “standardized and simplified” format of court briefs and motions.

Tsai said he wrote roughly 45 new rules of possible court situations regarding procedures to ensure future judges also know how to address a situation. He said without the updates to the court documents, the body would have spent more time addressing “basic” questions in a hearing – which are now outlined in the judicial handbook on the SA website – rather than coming to a decision.

“In the future, you will have courts where there may be four non-law students and one law student,” Tsai said. “And God forbid that law student not be well trained in civil procedure.”

Judges are appointed by the SA president and approved by the senate, and the court must include three graduate and two undergraduate students, according to the court’s judicial handbook.

Tsai said he is currently compiling court decisions and documents from the court’s creation in 1991 up to the present day, but he said documentation has not been “well kept” for court decisions since around 2000. He said the updated bylaws and procedures state all court decisions must be written down – instead of made only verbally – via general order or judgment, a court decision regarding legal rights and decisions.

He added that the judges convened late last week to select a new court registrar in charge of the body’s social media and outreach on behalf of the court.

“As the scattered archives of the court can attest to, poor record-keeping and unofficial unwritten agreements harms future courts and litigants, as it makes it near impossible to piece together the events leading up to a case and what reasoning underlies the final judgment in a case,” he said.

Shealyn Fraser, the SA vice president for public affairs who communicated with Tsai on the court updates, said she met with Tsai via Zoom to outline the information that needed to be updated on the SA websites – a “pretty simple” process. She said keeping the old information would “confuse students.”

“It was important for me to be a part of it because if we hadn’t talked, all of last year’s procedures would still be up on the website,” Fraser said.

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