UA students petition to impeach SGA chief justice

Two UA students filed an impeachment petition against Matthew Curl, the chief justice of the judicial branch of the Student Government Association, on Nov. 24. 

Garrett Burnett and Sarah Shield, the students who filed the petition, claimed negligence during Curl’s term, including his response to the 2021 homecoming election. 

The duties of the chief justice include presiding over the student judicial board, which oversees parking tickets appeals, football loyalty point appeals and any nonacademic violations of the Code of Student Conduct. The Judicial Board also oversees cases involving the SGA Constitution, the SGA elections and the impeachment of any SGA officials. 

There is no deadline to reach the 100 signatures needed to start the impeachment process. Burnett and Shield both said they feel confident they will reach their signature goal in time for the spring semester.

Grounds for removing an SGA member from any elected or appointed position can include “a willful violation of any aspect of the SGA constitution” or “failure to perform duties of office.” 

Burnett and Shield launched the petition during Thanksgiving break after they publicly resigned from the judicial board. Burnett said he saw a lack of accountability within the organization.

“I don’t think there’s any real checks and balances for that branch of the government,” he said. “They’ve been violating consistently for the past couple of months.”

Curl appointed a new clerk for the board without holding a full application process as the SGA constitution mandates. When Burnett and Shield brought this up with Curl, Burnett said their concerns were dismissed.

“He directly violated the constitution, and that was a huge problem we had, because the chief justice is obviously supposed to uphold the constitution and be the expert of the constitution on campus, but he doesn’t know it,” Burnett said. “I think it’s really dangerous for the chief justice to kind of just be able to do what he wants when it’s convenient for him and the board and have no checks or balances. The only check we have on the chief justice is to impeach him.”

Shield said this was part of a larger pattern of behavior. As a justice on the judicial board, she “got an inside look” at the branch. 

“This isn’t a retaliation campaign … It was really easy for us to kind of start to see instances where the chief justice wasn’t following his constitutional obligations. There kind of was a lack of respect for the governing documents within the branch as a whole,” Shield said. 

The petition has around 25 signatures at the time of publication. Burnett said they have done “minimal advertising” and have plans to promote it on social media in the next few weeks. 

Shield said she hopes their petition signals “a start to a common trend of transparency and accountability.” 

Matthew Curl did not respond to requests for comment.

Questions? Email the News desk at newsdesk@cw.ua.edu.