Tribune Explains: SSMU’s Judicial Board

What is the Judicial Board?

The Judicial Board (J-Board) is the official dispute resolution body of the Student Society of McGill University’s (SSMU) Board of Directors (BOD), the body responsible for the supervision of the management of SSMU. The committee is made up of seven student representatives, the majority of whom are students in McGill’s Faculty of Law. These seven justices are appointed by the Nominating Committee and serve for a one year term or until their successors are appointed.

What falls under J-Board’s jurisdiction?

All members of  SSMU have the right to petition the J-Board on matters falling within its jurisdiction. The J-Board’s duties include interpreting the SSMU Constitution and its Internal Regulations and policies. The board also has authority over the SSMU Legislative Council’s motions and resolutions, procedures, questions and results of all elections and referenda, the constitutions of clubs and services of the Society, the interpretation of any other governance documents of clubs and services of the SSMU as requested, and any equity complaints.

As the J-Board is a committee of  SSMU’s Board of Directors (BOD), it does not have the authority to bind the Board of Directors through its decisions. After the J-Board makes a ruling and communicates the results through a motion at a BOD meeting, the BOD must ratify the J-Board’s decision before it can come into effect.

For instance, although the J-Board ruled that the SSMU constitution students voted on in Winter 2020 was invalid, the SSMU BOD ultimately decided not to ratify this ruling. 

‘Governance Appellate Committee’ or J-Board?

The current version of the SSMU Constitution, ratified in Winter 2020, refers to the J-Board and the Bylaw Appellate Committee interchangeably. 

The Comprehensive Governance Review Committee (CGRC) submitted the initial report to the SSMU legislative council, outlining the proposed amendments to the constitution. As justification, CGRC cited that changing the name to Governance Appellate Committee would better recognize the J-board’s non-binding power and be more truthful to its function as a legal counselling body.

On Oct. 16, ballots closed for the 2020 SSMU special referendum. One of the three amendments proposed to officially change the name of the Judicial Board to the ‘Governance Appellate Committee’. 

However, with only 12.8 per cent of SSMU members3,117 out of 24,278casting a vote, the election did not reach the required quorum of 15 per cent. Therefore, the results do not stand and the changes to the constitution were not ratified. 

Filing a Petition

The bureaucratic structure of J-board can make the process of filing a petition inaccessible for students. While the board does not entertain what it determines to be petitions of a frivolous nature, the process is still available to all members of the McGill community who may wish to voice their concern about the operations of SSMU or its subsidiaries. 

When filing a petition to the board, the petitioner must agree to submit the petition only to the J-Board and to abide by its ultimate ruling on the matter. A petitioner can change their mind at any point before the hearing and withdraw their petition by written notice to the J-Board. 

Recent Rulings

On Jun. 6, the J-Board made its final ruling in a case concerning the Education Undergraduate Society (EdUS). In this case, the petitioners asked the J-Board to review EdUS’s decision to disqualify their candidacy for Vice-Presidents (Academic) of the EdUS, a disqualification made on the grounds of alleged violations of the society’s bylaws by the petitioners. The J-Board sided with the petitioners on this matter. 

On May 19, a petitioner argued that improper procedure was taken following the resignation of Moses Milchberg from his position as Science Undergraduate Society (SUS) representative to SSMU. The J-Board ruled that sending proxies to fill Milchberg’s vacancy was invalid and that the SUS should have appointed a new representative or held elections.

Erratum: An earlier version of the article stated that “The Judicial Board (J-Board) is the official dispute resolution body and legal counsel of the Student Society of McGill. University’s Board of Directors.” In fact “The Judicial Board (J-Board) is the official dispute resolution body” and not the legal counsel for the Student Society of McGill. University’s Board of Directors. The Tribune regrets this error. 

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