SGA sends judicial standing and statutes of limitations bill to committee


CW / David Gray

Chief Justice Caleb Thome appoints First Year Council members at a Senate session earlier this semester.

Alex Gravlee, Contributing Writer

The University of Alabama Student Government Association Senate sent a bill requiring legal standing for panels of inquiry and the implementation of a statute of limitations for the judicial review process to the Rules Committee on Nov. 17.  

The bill would give the Chief Justice the option to deny panels of inquiry into the constitutionality of an SGA Act if complainants don’t prove their “injury of fact” as a result an unconstitutional law. In the bill, an “injury of fact” is described as an injury that is “concrete and particularized” and “actual or imminent.” 

Complainants would have 60 days or one semester from the implementation or publication of an act that caused injury of fact to submit a panel of inquiry petition. Petitioners would submit their complaint to the Chief Justice.

Senator John Richardson, the bill’s author and a senator for the College of Arts and Sciences, said the Senate could still nullify an act that does “harm” through the legislative process, even after the 60-day period has passed.

“It’s not eliminating this process whatsoever; it’s attempting to empower the Senate to do its job,” Richardson said.  

David Ware, an associate justice of the Judicial Board, endorsed the bill and said the definition of what constituted an injury of fact or harm was intentionally vague to give the Judicial Board room for interpretation. Ware said the bill would make the SGA more efficient by reducing the number of unnecessary appeals.

“It ensures that appeals that we receive … are well thought out,” Ware said. “We want to make sure that the appeals that we are receiving are actually going to implement change.” 

The Judicial Board has the power to declare decisions by the SGA’s branches and the Election Board unconstitutional, and it is often called on to resolve disputes over election rules.  

Earlier in the fall semester, students appealed against the SGA and Elections Board for not holding a special Senate election 20 days after the start of the school year. Students also won an appeal over an unannounced special Senate meeting.  

There were also multiple high-profile appeals last school year, in the SGA presidential election and in the 2021 homecoming queen election. The SGA, and the Judicial Board by extension, removed itself from the homecoming queen election process following the controversies of the 2021 election.  

Traditionally, once students or organizations submit an appeal, it is reviewed by the Chief Justice for approval. Ware said the bill creates a clearer outline for what the Judicial Board has the power to do by clarifying which appeals can or cannot be approved, and equips the board with the “proper tools” to do its job “as best as possible.”  

Richardson said the bill was inspired by federal and state statutes, such as statutes of limitations for injuries. He said the SGA following similar rules to the federal and state governments helps students get experience in politics and civil responsibility.

“Now and in the future, the Judiciary seeks to hear and decide upon cases based upon their validity in the Constitution and Code of Laws,” said SGA Press Secretary Trinity Hunter in a statement. “We fully support this legislation and its aim to alleviate confusion moving forward.”