Two petitions filed Monday are challenging whether UF’s Supreme Court can use the U.S. Constitution and Florida Constitution in its recent rulings, including remote online voting and campaign finance reform.
Senator Ford Dwyer (Access, Law) said he wanted to submit the petitions after the Judiciary Committee failed bills submitted by members of Access Party on the basis that the bill didn’t follow the Florida and U.S. Constitutions. In the petitions, Dwyer cites former UF Supreme Court rulings saying the court doesn’t have the authority to rule on the U.S. Constitution.
The first petition asks the court to review whether it can rely on the U.S. and Florida Constitutions as its primary defense of decisions, he said. The second petition regards the ability of the Student Government Judiciary Committee to also use the U.S. and Florida Constitutions in its rulings. Each petition has more than 20 student signatures.
The UF Supreme Court previously ruled that the court didn’t have the authority to interpret provisions of the U.S. Constitution.
“Our jurisdiction pertains exclusively to student body laws and the actions of Student Government officials whose power derives from the Student Body Constitution,” the court wrote in an order after a hearing a 2012 petition concerning perceived First Amendment violations in the 700 codes, which govern UF’s SG elections.
Dwyer said he believes the 2012 order overturned a ruling the court made in 2006, which stated that SG’s laws are governed by, and abide by, the Florida Constitution and the Florida Administrative Code.
The conflicting opinions have caused problems for Access members who attempted to pass bills on online voting and campaign finance reform, Dwyer said. Before Student Senate could vote on them, the Judiciary Committee found them unconstitutional.
“If the UF Supreme Court isn’t willing to make their decisions based off of federal and state law, then they can’t serve as a check and balance to the Judiciary Committee,” he said.
If the court rules that it can use the U.S. and Florida Constitutions in its decisions, then the petitions ask the court to overturn five rules in the 700 elections codes on the basis that they violate students’ First Amendment rights.
Parts of the codes limit how and when students can talk about and campaign for SG parties, he said.
UF Supreme Court Chief Justice Chris Tribbey said he received both petitions Tuesday and will work with the court, Dwyer and the SG executive branch to pick time to hear the petitions.
“We’re probably looking at two to three weeks,” he said.