The student court struck down a student association by-law that allowed the finance committee to sanction student organizations on Sunday.
The SA Legislator-General’s Office filed a lawsuit against the chairman of the SA Senate Finance Committee in February, opposing sections of the financial reorganization Law – a bill to amend the SA’s financial bylaws in December, allowing the finance committee to impose sanctions and fines on student organizations that violate SA’s funding policies. The court ruled in a 5-2 decision Sunday that only the executive branch of the SA — specifically the office of the treasurer — can sanction student organizations, invalidating the sanctioning power of the finance committee but retaining other bylaw updates that define the parameters of the finance committee. finance and establish general allocations.
“Our position is based on our finding that the power to sanction is an executive power that properly belongs to the executive branch – which Section 511 unconstitutionally vests in the legislative branch,” the ruling says. “And we reiterate that the exercise of the sanctioning power must, at a minimum, meet the fundamental standards of due process guaranteed by the Constitution or otherwise identified by the decisions of this court.”
Xu sponsored the Financial Reform Act in March in a bid to overturn the student court case. Senators unanimously passed legislation to remove sanctioning power from SA bylaws after June 30, but the court ruled the bill did “not render the plaintiffs’ challenge moot”, dismissing Xu’s attempt to circumvent the court and extending the case until Sunday’s ruling. .
The plaintiffs argued that the court should strike down the committee’s sanctioning power as unconstitutional, but said the rest of the law should remain in place, which the court ultimately accepted. Juan Carlos Mora, deputy general legislator and plaintiff, said the power to sanction student organizations rests solely with the executive branch, specifically the treasurer.
“Although the Senate plays the primary role in developing legislation and identifying the type of illegal conduct in this case, the types of conduct listed, such as political activity, such as certain uses of equipment, c It is then up to the executive to be able to enforce that power,” he said during his closing arguments last month.
Xu countered and said the finance committee will theoretically only be able to sanction student organizations until the power expires in July due to updated legislation passed by the Senate, rendering the case moot. He said that under his proposed sanctions system, the Senate and court could have appealed any sanction decision made by the finance committee.
“The defendant believes that the treasurer should act as the prosecutor, with the finance committee acting as the hearing committee,” he said. “The Senate should be the first step to appeal, and the court will be the last resort to resolve any disputes.”
The Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities can also sanction student organizations for violating the Student Code of Conduct and sanctioned student organizations may face sanctions such as suspension, censure, and expulsion.
Xu said the University “must be involved” in all sanctioning processes, including the SAs. He said that because the SA receives funding from the University, the treasurer must speak with officials throughout the sanctioning process to determine if an organization has violated the Student Code of Conduct.
“If the University does not participate in this process, the treasurer has no way of learning all this information before filing a complaint against the student organization,” Xu said.
The court’s decision indicates that the SA’s sanctioning power demonstrates student autonomy and self-governance. Delivering judgment on Sunday, Chief Justice Yun-da Tsai said the University is not subject to the same limitations as the SA because “the board gives them immense power.”
“The point is, once the SA got the power, as long as the University didn’t stop the SA from exercising its power in those areas, it got the power,” he said. .
The decision states that although the defense says there has never been a situation where the sanctioning powers within the SA were unclear, that does not mean there is no question. on the Constitution of the SA to which the court must respond.
“To hold otherwise would greatly diminish this court’s scrutiny of legislation duly enacted in flagrant violation of the constitution’s grant of judicial power and of this court’s solemn duty and responsibility to hear matters clearly within our jurisdiction,” the decision reads.
Associate Justice Fatmah Noredin, who wrote the dissenting opinion, said the treasurer and finance committee are intrinsically involved in the sanctioning process, so they should share sanctioning power with the executive branch.
“I think the sanctioning power can be shared between the branches,” she said.
The majority court ruling says the treasurer must follow existing rules regarding funding and sanctioning of SAs, and the treasurer must “timely notify” all organizations they sanction. The decision declares the finance committees’ sanctioning power to be “unconstitutional and invalid for all purposes” and reviews all sanctions administered under the SA’s statutes.
“Our decision here today reiterates the responsibility of the student union to control the disbursement and use of student union funds, to uphold the fundamental organizational principles set forth in the student union’s governing documents, and to provide registered student organizations with the basic due process necessary for the fair and equitable exercise of sanctioning power,” the decision states.