SGA confirms new chief justice
By Jacob Abrahamson–
SGA Senate confirmed Ben Shepard as the next Chief Justice of SGA Supreme Court after only one person dissented his election. His term began immediately after the vote went through.
SGA President Carrie Mattingly announced the nomination at the March 18 SGA Senate meeting, saying she felt most comfortable nominating someone with experience on the court.
“He is the most experienced out of the justices, and he is very knowledgeable on SGA precedent,” said Mattingly. “I am very confident in Ben’s ability to lead the Court ethically and effectively as Chief Justice.”
“So I’m now officially the Chief Justice of the SGA Supreme Court, which is exciting,” said Shepard. “It’s certainly an honor to have made it to that position.”
SGA Supreme Court is responsible for drafting election rules, hearing disputes related to elections and settling disputes related to SGA and Recognized Student Organizations (RSOs). According to the SGA Constitution, the “Chief Justice shall preside over all Supreme Court functions, and is responsible for assigning the writing of any opinion.”
Shepard is a second-year law student at the Brandeis School of Law, with undergraduate degrees in political science and history. He has spent five years as an associate justice on the Court. He has also been selected as the Editor-in-Chief of the U of L Law Review.
In his new head role, Shepard hopes “to first of all fill the mandate of the Constitution of what I’m required to do.”
“We are the branch that is supposed to be above politics and above reproach,” said Shepard. “When we are called to come in and adjudicate a case … we can do that in a dispassionate way and in a way that doesn’t create a perception of bias.”
Shepard’s appointment comes at the heels of the resignation of former Chief Justice Brandon McReynolds earlier this semester. At the time, there was a discussion of impeachment, leading McReynolds to leave his position.
“He is nothing but, in my experience, an individual of integrity,” said Shepard on McReynolds. However, he wants to clearly define his role to prevent similar situations.
His philosophy as an SGA Supreme Court Justice seemed to be derived from the U.S. Constitution, calling the system “somewhat of a mirror of the way that things are conducted in real life.” Shepard believes that the Supreme Court best shows that parallel.
“One day I’d love to be a federal judge which is why the student government system is of such interest to me,” said Shepard.
Shepard’s involvement in SGA began with him as Co-Chair of the A&S Freshman Council. He then worked his way up from Task Force Freshman to the Executive Assistant to the Executive Vice President. At the end of his first year, he was appointed to a vacant spot on the Court, holding an associate justice position since.
During his term, Shepard has worked on changing the election codes for SGA, which he saw as difficult to interpret.
“The form that the election rules take today really is my responsibility,” said Shepard. “I divided the elements and codified them into the chapters and sections that they’re in now. Beyond being involved with the drafting of the election rules, I have tried from time to time to persuade the Chief Justice and my colleagues to see about getting the election rules sent back as something that the Senate is responsible for doing.”
Shepard claimed that the court’s task of interpreting election rules becomes difficult when they wrote the rules. He believes that the court should only be in charge of interpreting and executing the rules.
Shepard’s initial nomination was unanimously approved by the Executive Board on March 25. However, some expressed concern that his workload as U of L Law Review Editor-in-Chief, law student and Chief Justice may be too much.
“In terms of time management, it’s really never been a problem for me,” said Shepard. “Prioritizing work over play was a lesson that my father taught me very early on.”