At around 10 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 28, ASUCR notified senators announcing an emergency senate meeting to be held this Monday, Jan. 30, to hear cases for the impeachment of Judicial Branch’s Chief Justice Jo Gbujama and Vice Chief Justice Hayden Jackson.
According to sources close to the situation, the senate is being asked to consider impeachment of the justices on two respective charges: One accusing that they allegedly acted unilaterally without a quorum present and another alleging they violated the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). It has been suggested by UCR administration that the senate table the FERPA vote until the university’s FERPA officer has had a chance to do a thorough review of the case.
The call for the emergency meeting comes in the midst of ambiguity over the status of a presently vacant ASUCR presidential seat in light of elected President Shafi Karim being on leave for the remainder of the quarter. Per ASUCR bylaw XXIV, 2016-17’s presidential runner-up, Arturo Gomez, is next-in-line to serve as interim president in Karim’s absence. However, at time of writing, Gomez has not been officially offered the position, as Executive Vice President (EVP) Wen-Yu Chou — who has served as acting president in the interim — continues to dispute the judicial order to do so.
According to sources, once given notice of his leave, Karim submitted a waiver request to judicial which, if granted, would have allowed for him to continue to serve as president for the remainder of the quarter. The judicial branch, who has the authority to approve such waivers, voted 3-2-1 in opposition of this request at a hearing held Wednesday, Jan. 25. The judicial branch informed Chou of the result prior to Wednesday’s State of the Association meeting later that evening. The matter is still not resolved.
Gbujama and Jackson, who are both in the second year of their two-year terms, were two of six justices to vote during the waiver hearing. An impeachment of them, according to the ASUCR Constitution Article VI, Section B, would require the executive cabinet to appoint two new justices to serve for the remainder of the year. In order to eliminate bias, three justices are normally appointed every year to a two-year term.
While the future status of the presidency remains unclear, Gomez has maintained optimism about potentially serving in the chair, telling the Highlander that if taking office he “will strive to work with Senators (sic) and officers of the Executive Cabinet to move our campus forward.”
Yet some senators have both privately and publicly expressed opposition to Gomez potentially taking the presidential seat. In a statement provided Monday morning, CHASS Senator Aram Aryapetan deemed Gomez “an illegitimate interim ruler, who gained the position due to a faulty ruling carried out by a biased Judicial Council.” Ayrapetan also cited Gomez’s lack of experience “(holding) a high leadership position in ASUCR” as cause for his concern.
When asked about the opposition, Gomez stated, “If I am to take office I hope that (…) I will quickly form (a) good rapport with departmental, faculty, labor, graduate student and administration officials (to) begin to create more collaborative relationships across the campus.”
Depending upon the viewpoint of who is appointed in their place, an impeachment of the two Jackson and Gbujama could potentially result in Karim being able to acquire the president’s seat if a waiver request is refiled and granted on a majority vote of the judicial council. Karim would also have to successfully file for an appeal of the former decision. There has thus far been no confirmation of whether the elected president plans to do so.
Despite not yet being posted on the ASUCR website, tonight’s (Monday, Jan. 30) senate meeting has indeed been called and is open to the public. It will be held at 10 p.m. inside the senate chambers (2nd floor of HUB). A closed vote on the impeachment will follow.
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that President Pro-Tempore Jonathan Li sent an email announcing the meeting to ASUCR senators. The Highlander was notified of the error and the proper correction has since been made.