Judicial Council considers divestment bill’s constitutionality

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The ASUC Judicial Council hears arguments addressing controversial divestment bill SB 160 on May 8.

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The ASUC Judicial Council heard oral arguments Wednesday in a case regarding the controversial divestment bill, SB 160.

The council heard the case, Ickowitz-Freeman v. ASUC Senate & SB 160, at Anna Head Alumnae Hall Wednesday morning. Petitioners Noah Ickowitz, SQUELCH! party chair and a former Daily Cal columnist, and Joey Freeman, former external affairs vice president, allege that the bill’s passage was unconstitutional because it legislated investments, did not pass through the ASUC’s investment committee and did not obtain the two-thirds majority required to approve investment legislation.

CalSERVE Senator Nolan Pack argued for the defense, saying that SB 160 makes no changes to the budget and therefore does not fall under the investment committee’s purview. He also said that SB 160 leaves the ASUC’s revenue sources  unaltered. If this is true, the bill’s passage would be constitutional.

On Friday, the Judicial Council approved a settlement agreement to the case that would remove language from the bill, making the passage constitutional. On Saturday, however, the Judicial Council backtracked on that decision, deciding instead that the settlement was invalid.

ASUC Attorney General Hinh Tran agrees with the petitioners that the bill’s passage was unconstitutional and decided not to represent the ASUC Senate in this particular case despite the attorney general’s traditional role of doing so.

“The settlement would have produced a constitutional SB 160,” Tran said. “I determined personally that there are parts of SB 160, as is, that are unconstitutional because the ASUC intended that anything finance-related would require a two-thirds vote in order for the ASUC to divest.”

SB 160 was originally passed on April 18 by a vote of 11 in favor and nine against after 10 hours of debate that continued through the night and into the following day.

Pack — in place of Tran — argued for the constitutionality of the bill’s passage.

However, despite the procedural nature of the case, both sides felt their personal beliefs on divestment were being brought into the debate, raising questions about whether individual values will influence the justices.

“A significant part of the defense’s arguments were personal attacks on the plaintiffs rather than arguments against legal claims that the plaintiffs were making,” Ickowitz said. “Personally, I felt that they harped on one of the violations I was asserting but briefly addressed the others.”

Pack said, however, that this is not about Israel or Palestine but about upholding the integrity of decisions made by the ASUC.

“I hope that the Judicial Council upholds the legislative decision of the senate to support SB 160 rather than affirming arguments that aim to use judicial council to achieve a legislative goal,” he said.

The Judicial Council declined to comment on this story.

Click here for a video of Ickowitz’s statement.

Contact Matt Trejo at [email protected].