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3 USG justices resign after being threatened with impeachment

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USG members conduct a General Assembly meeting on March 25 in the Senate Chamber of the Ohio Union. Credit: Yann Schreiber / Lantern reporter

USG members conduct a General Assembly meeting on March 25 in the Senate Chamber of the Ohio Union. Credit: Yann Schreiber / Lantern reporter

Three justices of the Undergraduate Student Government Judicial Panel resigned at a General Assembly meeting on Wednesday.

Justices Andrew Braun, Morgan Johnson and Aaron Vaughn resigned after facing impeachment at the meeting. Chief Justice Brandon Cruz resigned last week, members of the Judicial Panel said. The new chief justice is Taylor Marsilio, a former justice. He took office after Cruz’s resignation.

Additionally, there will be no special election on the divestment issue, or “Issue 1,” said USG President Celia Wright, a fourth-year in public health.

Issue 1 was brought forth by a petition from the organization OSU Divest, and asked whether student voters thought OSU should divest — or cut financial ties — from companies “complicit in Israeli human rights violations and the occupation of the Palestinian Territories,” according to the OSU Divest website.

Initially, the Judicial Panel decided to deny Issue 1 a spot on the ballot because the petition failed to meet certain submission criteria outlined in the USG election bylaws. The panel later issued a press release that acknowledged “the presence of procedural error in the handling of this case,” and said the issue could show up on a special ballot at the end of March, pending General Assembly approval.

The USG Judicial Panel announced the vote March 11. This announcement was part of the accusations leading to the impeachment, according to a resolution that brought forth the suggestion of impeaching some justices, titled “articles of impeachment.” The justices were accused of overstepping their constitutional boundaries by declaring a special election, which is not mentioned in the USG bylaws.

The three justices faced impeachment but resigned before the General Assembly could vote on the impeachment articles.

Former Chief Justice Cruz — who had previously resigned — said in his resignation letter the USG administration “consistently excommunicated anyone who has gone against them and their opinion, which is why I cannot continue to follow what the current USG administration has done and continues to do, not only to myself, but to the entire USG as a whole.”

According to the articles of impeachment provided by both the justices and USG, the three justices were accused of “failure to perform constitutionally prescribed duty and abuse of power and position.”

They were also accused of “ignoring the rules laid out in the Elections Bylaws” and “subverting the legislative branch of the Undergraduate Student Government” and also having taken part in a secret meeting with “OSU Divest, the Committee for Justice in Palestine, a previous USG Vice President (and) a USG Senator,” the articles said. OSU Divest had sponsored the Issue 1 referendum.

In her resignation letter, Johnson, a second-year in public affairs and one of the justices who resigned today, addressed the accusations and wrote, “In any matter, I and all of my fellow justices have done our job with the upmost (sic) integrity.”

“No one wanted to be responsible for taking OSU Divest’s initiative off of the ballot,” she wrote in a letter she told The Lantern after the meeting that she had read to the USG General Assembly. “Many people, including those that have accused my actions of simply having a meeting to compromise a solution to a problem and suggesting action as unconstitutional, wanted to see the issue off of the ballot.”

The discussions on the justices’ impeachment were closed to the public and the media. USG declared the session a “closed session.” The General Assembly remained closed after the three justices, who had handed in their letters of resignation, left the Senate Chamber in the Ohio Union.

According to USG’s “Standing Rules of the Senate,” the Senate moves into executive session after the consideration of the resolution containing the articles of impeachment or censure is announced. During that session, people involved are permitted to present evidence and speak, and questioning takes place. The Senate then votes “by method of Secret Ballot,” and reopens the meeting afterward.

After being reopened to the public after about two hours, the General Assembly had moved to announcements and adjourned within a few minutes. Wright declined to comment on what had been discussed in the closed session.

Earlier this month, Wright and vice president Leah Lacure, a fourth-year in public affairs, published a statement addressing Issue 1, among other issues, and ultimately announced the decision to file for the impeachment of the chief justice of the Judicial Panel.

“Throughout this process, we have been alarmed and disturbed by the lack of efficiency and attentiveness in the Judicial Panel’s handling of the issue since its inception,” Wright and Lacure said in the statement, released March 9.

The impeachment articles’ sponsors included Wright and Lacure.

The articles “were withdrawn from the floor following the resignation of the justices,” Lacure said in a follow-up email on Wednesday.

In Braun’s resignation letter, which he later said he also read to the General Assembly, Braun, a fourth-year in microbiology and international studies, said he was resigning because of the “complete breakdown of election propriety and respectability that has followed the mishandling of the OSU Divest ballot petition.”

The members who resigned will form a review panel, Johnson said.

People within the organization are “scared to take action because they are afraid of the retaliation,” she said. “Any student that wants to get involved and help a lot of students are under the impression that they can’t participate unless they join the organization, but this is not true.”

Johnson said the review panel will work to make the actions of USG more transparent for students.

“I want to help make students aware of their rights within student government,” she said. “What we’ll do is attend General Assembly meetings to make sure they are following bylaws, review executive actions to make sure they respect bylaws, make sure the (Judicial) Panel is adhering to the bylaws. (We) want to serve as a body that is free of political pressure.”

14 comments

  1. Looks like celia really is the dirtiest USG president.

  2. The lack of due process and back door talks of the JP are astounding. While Divest was a contentious issue, the JP failed to comply to bylaws and basic ethical procedure… I mean the former VP? Why did they not sit down with the current one? As someone who supports having divestment as a ballot iniative and would of voted yes, there is no oversight for the actions of the JP- you and USG failed us this election.

  3. ^sounds like someone’s bitter about losing the last election.

  4. The president doesn’t impeach. Congress does. So it’s the USG Senate that is im charge of this impeachment process – Celia couldn’t suggest it and wouldn’t get to vote.

    To the author: Is it really a secret ballot? Every year the Lantern writes that USG votes on issues by secret ballot, and 90% of the time it is false reporting. We only vote on end-of-year awards by secret ballot, and usually any vote that is controversial is pushed to a roll call vote (though not likely to roll call vote in the case of impeachment). I bet it was a raise-the-hands vote, but done in executive session (no reporters or audience in the room) to keep the justices’ privacy intact. You’ll notice how the injured justices have quotes, but the senate is not quoted for the sake of professionalism – the vote of the entire body is the message, not a single senator’s voice out of 40.

    Just because journalists are not allowed in when discussing matters of impeachment (so as to allow free debate among senators) does NOT mean that the ballot was secret. Likely there was no paper ballot at all – and a raise of hands is not secret. The Lantern also implies a shadiness to it, despite the fact that most city councils have Executive Sessions on a weekly basis. USG does it maybe four times a year, on highly sensitive matters regarding personnel.

    Why are you calling it the General Assembly? The official title is USG Senate, and just as you wouldn’t refer to it as the “Senate” exclusively in an written article (implying Washington, D.C.), I have no clue what you mean by General Assembly. It makes me think of state government, or the title of a parliament in a foreign country. And I WAS a USG senator just a few years ago!

  5. It is the general assembly now… There’s a new constitution…

  6. It is the general assembly… There’s a new constitution…

  7. Why not just go to class instead of playing Mickey Mouse “government”.

  8. The only potentially bad act by the JP is announcing an election. But did they?

    Once again the article is so poorly put together you can’t tell. It says:

    “The [JP] panel later issued a press release that … said the issue could show up on a special ballot at the end of March, pending General Assembly approval.

    The USG Judicial Panel announced the vote March 11.”

    They announced what vote? Their own earlier vote to turn aside the ballot initiative due to procedural errors? Or they announced that the initiative would be on a special ballot to be held on March 11th?

    The crux of the issue — the purported announcement of a special ballot — is so confusingly presented in the article we can’t tell if the impeachment attempt was bogus.

    I’ve got to stop reading The Lantern. The writing just sucks. Don’t worry for now about form, or grammar etc. Focus first on understanding what exactly happened. Then express it is as clearly as you can. Hyper-focus on the heart of the issue (here, the JP’s alleged offense) and then very specific (e.g. include the text, which it sounds like you have, of the JP’s offending press release.)

  9. 5 bucks says that “Tom” is one of the impeached justices or the former USG Vice President.

  10. You know what? I’m gonna run for USG President next year on a platform of getting rid of USG. It seems a waste of time and a silly distraction.

  11. i think it’s pretty obvious to everyone outside USG that the only people commenting on this or even taking it seriously are probably in usg. this is hilarious. people in USG pretending not to be pointing fingers at people in USG also pretending not to be in USG

    source:
    i’m in usg

  12. Cardale For Prez

    Cardale would have never let this happen.
    Shame on you, USG.

  13. What is up with these titles for people? We’re university students. Stop trying to sound more important than you are. What is the percentage of student body that takes part in voting or related USG things?

  14. It is only when the Jewish State commits war crimes and engages in racialist colonialism that protesting war crimes and racism becomes controversial.

    Such, frankly, is the absurdity of Jewish and Zionist power in the broader culture.

    Academic freedom? Universal ethics? What are they compared to the right of Israel to be above criticism by the goyim?

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