Weeks ago, I found myself sitting at an ASNMU meeting, something I did every Monday night. It was my responsibility as an ASNMU off-campus representative. It was Oct. 11 and I introduced a discussion item for the meeting titled “ASJ and Constitutional Interpretation.”
The All-Student Judiciary is the judicial branch of ASNMU. It has original jurisdiction over student violations of university regulations such as noise violations, possession of alcohol, etc. It also has final jurisdiction over questions of constitutionality regarding the ASNMU constitution. It does not engage in “concrete judicial review.” This is something that needs to change, in order to have an effective student government.
The intent of this discussion item was to satisfy my inquiry of how ASJ decides what rules, resolutions and election complaints are constitutional. When I brought up the discussion, the answer I got did not make much sense. I was told ASJ only engages in “active review” when asked.
I asked who exactly had to “ask” ASJ to review the ASNMU constitution or actions that may be inconsistent with the ASNMU constitution. ASNMU president Lucia Lopez suggested that only the ASNMU president could ask ASJ to review the ASNMU constitution and actions that may be considered unconstitutional.
This is a serious blunder of how the three branches of student government should work. If the ASNMU president is the only person who may ask ASJ to review the ASNMU constitution, it makes ASJ only as powerful as the ASNMU president lets ASJ be. If the president doesn’t want an action to be reviewed, it won’t. Actions can only be reviewed if the president asks ASJ to review it. In essence, this makes ASJ continent on what the ASNMU president wants. This can’t be considered true judicial independence.
ASJ must engage in concrete judicial review like the Student Judiciary of the Associated Students of Madison does. Article IV, section 3 of the ASNMU constitution lists the powers that reside in ASJ. Section 3 also more specifically states that ASJ has final jurisdiction over areas of constitutionality regarding the actions taken by ASNMU and also has the exclusive power to interpret the ASNMU constitution.
The problem with Article IV of the ASNMU constitution is that there is no section that addresses how a case may be brought in front of ASJ to challenge actions of ASNMU to see if they are constitutional or not. It seems that the ASNMU president has decided to interpret the ASNMU constitution in such a way that gives only the president the power to ask for review, though this is nowhere to be found in Article II, section 2, which lists the powers of the president.
ASJ must take a stand of independence and realize it is their province to decide if something violates the ASNMU constitution or not. They should be listening to parties who think the ASNMU constitution has been violated, not only to the ASNMU president. The Supreme Court made its independence clear in Marbury v. Madison, saying “It is emphatically the province and duty of the Judicial Department [the judicial branch] to say what the law is.” The Student Judiciary of the Associated Students of Madison also took its independent stand in Richards v. Student Council. 1997 ASM SJ 1says, “It is the sole province of the Student Judiciary to determine what the law of ASM actually is.”
The students of NMU now need ASJ to take a stand for its judicial independence. It is their responsibility to uphold the ASNMU constitution, interpret the constitution and decide if an act violates the constitution. It is not the job of the ASNMU president to bring cases to ASJ about an act being constitutional or not. This is the job of private parties, either individual students or student groups, to bring cases before ASJ. This is done at UW-Madison and it is time for it to happen here.