In SGA’s own words: the unsuccessful impeachment of Judicial Board’s Chief Justice

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Mon Oct 15, 2018

After two weeks marked by wide-ranging conversations and internal emotions, Finance Board Chair Jorge Morin has formally withdrawn the impeachment petition he filed on September 26 against Judicial Board Chief Justice Erin Monforti, a fellow Student Government Association (SGA) executive board member. TechNews reached out to each senator and executive board member of the student advocacy organization to understand where student representatives stood on the impeachment proceedings both during the process and after its completion.

Initial reactions to the September 26 announcement (an announcement covered in the October 2 issue of TechNews) were largely marked by what one senator described as “a great confusion.” Senators had been given no prior notice of impeachment filings, and SGA’s own executive board members had been informed of Morin’s intentions with only a few minutes to a few hours advance notification of that week’s regular senate meeting. Derek Rhea, a senator for the College of Science, stated that “the initial articles of impeachment being filed was a shock to all senators not closely connected with the executive board.” Kemelbek Tashkulav, representing the School of Applied Technology, wrote that “this impeachment came as a very big surprise for me and a lot of other senators and I hope it gets resolved in the most transparent and mature way possible.”

Those who had begun to form an opinion on the case after Morin and Monforti had made their initial arguments also weighed in, largely favoring Monforti. Isiah Galve, a senator for the Armour College of Engineering, called the impeachment “unfair and unreasonable.” In response to some of Morin’s initial arguments, which pointed to Monforti’s relative lack of prior experience in Judicial Board, Galve opined that “for the chief justice to be appointed with her current credentials and to now be impeached due to those exact same credentials is nonsensical.”

Some senators were also concerned about impeachment proceedings being used manipulatively, especially given the inexperienced nature of nearly all the senators who would be asked to vote on an eventual impeachment trial. One senator who preferred to be quoted anonymously told TechNews, “I am deeply disappointed by the [Finance Board]'s attempt to confuse and blitzkrieg new senators, many of whom are freshman, into voting on something they have no idea about. It would have been valuable to know that when Chief Justice Monforti was appointed, the vote was unanimous.” This idea, that the impeachment was being used strategically on a new group of senators who would be less equipped to combat it now than they would be later in the academic year, was echoed in the expressed concerns of other senators who spoke with TechNews.

Many in senate also had questions about the mechanics of the impeachment process, something acknowledged by SGA Communications Chair Narkis Garcia III in an audio interview: “nobody [serving in senate] really knew how impeachments would ever work, and then how this one would work.”

As these reactions were coming to light externally, SGA’s fractured executive board worked internally to figure out next steps. Discussing tension that was now open between Morin and Monforti, the general conclusion was reached that, in the words of Executive Assistant Katja Berthold, “this whole issue was something that shouldn’t have even happened in the first place.” Even while impeachment background documents were being delivered to various constituencies (to TechNews on October 1 and to senators on October 3), SGA president Eric Scott (who was opposed to the impeachment, like most of the executive board) brought his leadership team through an attempt at a reconciliation process. During their October 4 executive board meeting, it was officially decided that the impeachment charges would be dropped by Morin. This itself was not without some conflict: at one point during the tense meeting, Morin was even asked to leave the room by Scott. However, by the meeting’s end, Garcia reported that “we believe Jorge had seen the improvement necessary to rescind the impeachment.”

Though the cancellation of proceedings would not be officially announced until the senate meeting on October 10, word began to filter out immediately, with Events Chair Henry White telling TechNews on October 5 that “the causes for this conflict have already been resolved within the executive board and… we're all ready to move on to more pressing matters.” The same day, Garcia discussed steps that the executive board was taking to prevent such a situation from arising again, expressing that “there’s been a huge emphasis on making the interpersonal relationships [within the executive board] matter to the point that you can speak candidly with other members of the executive board.” He added that the original impeachment “clearly wasn’t worked out properly… if it was ultimately postponed, it likely wouldn’t have ever been made public.”

Monforti, the subject of the failed impeachment, released the following statement to TechNews:

"The past few weeks have been very stressful in light of the request for my removal from office, which I consider frivolous and misinformed. I really enjoy my role as chief justice, and I feel my attempts to better myself and ensure best practices within Judicial Board reflect the full potential of this branch of Student Government. I sincerely apologize for the stumbles I had along the learning curve I experienced this summer and during the first few weeks of the semester, but I feel confident that Judicial Board and SGA can only improve from this point on - and I feel I can contribute meaningfully to this positive trajectory. I really hope I can finish my term with Judicial Board and help SGA empower students at Illinois Tech."

Morin, reflecting on the process that he had set in motion, also released a statement:

“I can start by saying that things aren't always the way that it's meant to be. I never wanted to publicly shame anyone, my intentions were always to protect the integrity and reputation of Student Government. I would like to first off publicly apologize to Erin Monforti, it was never my intentions to make things look the way they were presented when the impeachment was first announced. Erin Monforti demonstrates the respect and passion her position carries, and seeing the improvements that she has made to make Judicial Board, I feel it is no longer necessary to go through with the impeachment. It will be (or has been) announce [sic] at the Senate Hearing that I will pull the impeachment case. The reason why this impeachment happened, at least from my point of view since I made it, was because I was worried at the direction that student government was heading since we continue to make mistakes in interpreting the SGA Constitution and Bylaws. However, it has come to my attention that Judicial Board has taken great lengths in executing themselves to their Bylaws. They now document all their cases and make those cases available, they regularly communicate with student organizations to ensure that all processes are fair, they review amendments proposed by the SGA executive board to make sure they abide by the constitution and bylaws, and they're just overall a group a great, fair-minded intellectual people who really love what they do and love to serve students on this campus.

“So to wrap it up, I have high hopes on what student government can do, and I know that Erin Monforti will continue to be excellent as our current standing chief justice.” 

 

 

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2018 - Fall - Issue 6
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