New judicial branch debuts for RHA

By Katie Pohlman


The new branch will have the responsibility of reviewing all legislation to verify constitutionality.

The Residence Halls Association is introducing a judicial branch for the 2012-13 academic year that will oversee scholarships, impeachments and elections and will have the power of judicial review.In previous years, special committees were in charge of the scholarship application process and RHA elections. Now that the judicial branch is taking them under its wing, the possibility of conflict of interest, especially in the elections, is gone, RHA Chief Justice Tom Bourneuf said.

They will have a safe place, surrounded by objectivity, in the judicial branch, he said.

In this coming year, Bourneuf said he is intent on establishing “progressive review,” ensuring everything that passes through the RHA congress is constitutional, which requires that members be well-versed in the constitution.

“I want to make sure everything is thought through, slow, deliberate,” he said. He said his goal is to establish the branch as a permanent fixture in RHA.

Before this year, the issue of adding a branch to hear resident misconduct cases was debated since there was already an organization that has the same role, called the Judicial Peer Advisory Council.

JPAC hears students’ cases of rule violations before administering a punishment. Since there was already resident hall court in place, RHA decided to remove that power and give formerly committee-run operations to the judicial branch.

RHA President Zack Folk said he believes that this new branch will be beneficial to the association by giving it more legitimacy through reviewing bylaws passed and adding to the system of checks and balances.

Folk said he believes the judicial branch will bring more stability and trust to the association. This new branch will serve as a group of unbiased individuals for cases that need objectivity, Folk said.

Folk said he is confident the branch will prosper due to the fact experienced leaders such as Bourneuf, who had been involved with the Missouri Students Association before joining RHA, and other returning members head the operation.

Bourneuf is confident the association will welcome the branch because those members who are returning from last year supported the idea. The vote for the addition of this branch was unanimous last year.

As for the new members, it will be as if nothing is different, Bourneuf said.

“There will likely be very little change in how committees and congress are run,” RHA Speaker of Congress Lydia Harvengt said.

According to Harvengt, the process of amending the constitution or re-passing legislation would remain the same. The judicial branch would come into play by asking congress to review the legislation.

Before the branch’s first meeting of the year, Bourneuf is focusing on his task of “housekeeping.” This involves reviewing the constitution and bylaws to make sure everything flows and making suggestions of changes if it does not.

He said he wants to establish a good precedent for future years by setting up the main objectives of the branch.

“The biggest contribution (to RHA) is trying to find right and wrong, what’s constitutional or unconstitutional,” he said.

Harvengt said she strongly believes the branch will absolutely be successful this coming year.

But Folk said he is a little more wary about the success the new branch will have.

“I’m very positive it will work, but you never know how something will turn out until it happens,” he said.

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