The ASUC Judicial Council nullified the student-approved health and wellness referendum Tuesday when justices decided that the referendum was put on the ballot in an unconstitutional manner.
The decision on Jackson v. Landgraf to overturn the health and wellness referendum was founded in the argument that ASUC President Connor Landgraf overstepped his presidential authority by using an executive order to get the referendum on the spring 2013 election ballot after the established filing date.
Associate Justice Scott Lara expressed concern that students only had 18 days to become properly informed about a referendum that would initially cost each student $40 per semester, a cost that would rise until reaching a maximum $287 per semester from 2042-46. The ASUC bylaws state that the president may only issue executive orders that are “necessary to maintain the functioning of the ASUC until the Senate can meet again.”
The justices believed that the circumstances surrounding the referendum did not require an immediate solution.
“Problems that only deal with the comfort of the student body, such as a larger area to work out or newer machines, cannot be an urgent problem that the Executive Order can be used to solve,” reads the decision.
Only five of the nine Judicial Council justices participated in the decision. Chief Justice Suneeta Israni was not involved. No member of the Judicial Council could be reached for comment on this story.
The constitutionality of another executive order that Landgraf issued to ensure students’ continued unlimited access to AC Transit bus passes — the Class Pass — was not challenged.
Attorney General Hinh Tran, who represented the ASUC in the case and defended the referendum’s constitutionality, took issue with the procedures of the case. He said that the decision was made in summary judgment — a tactic usually reserved for the necessity of expediency — which allows the justices to make a private decision without hearing oral argument. Additionally, Tran said that the decision was made public only one minute before the deadline for an appeal.
“(The Judicial Council’s opinion) does not address the arguments I made in the trial briefs,” Tran said.
Student Action Senator Mihir Deo, who played a major role in including language in the referendum that would serve the needs of disabled students, concurred that the executive order was unconstitutional but said that the council did not consider external factors that caused Landgraf to miss the filing deadline.
“I feel that this is one of those situations where you withhold something unconstitutional, but you’re also withholding democracy a little bit as well,” Deo said.
The health and wellness referendum has already been placed on the 2014 ballot, giving students close to a year to weigh the benefits of new facilities against the fee increases that would pay for them.
Contact Jeremy Gordon at [email protected].