At its last meeting, the Duke Student Government Senate set a new and dangerous precedent—they voted not to reconfirm the chief justice of the DSG Judiciary, voting 23 to 21 against sophomore Justice Max Schreiber's reconfirmation. As current and former justices of the DSG Judiciary, we write to declare our belief that such an action violates the principle of separation of powers. We implore the student body to condemn the actions of the DSG Senate and President Jones in drastically eroding the efficacy of our representative government.
As has been highlighted by The Chronicle’s Editorial Board, the reasons for Justice Schreiber’s dismissal were not based upon judicial merit, but, rather, his personality and political views—specifically his willingness to check the power of the DSG’s Executive Branch. Many of us have served with Justice Schreiber, and we can attest to his ability to act appropriately as a justice and interpret the law judiciously. This is all that should matter when it comes to judicial re-appointment.
Perhaps more unsettling, however, is that President Jones made no attempt to hide her animosity towards Justice Schreiber during the debate over his reconfirmation—speaking at length against his confirmation when, typically, the president rarely, if ever, addresses the Senate at all. This calls into question the legitimacy of the entire reconfirmation process when a president can essentially use a bully pulpit to expel the chief justice.
It is our opinion that such an utterly extreme action merits a response. A constitutional amendment is needed to protect the Judiciary from the whims of the president, vice presidents and Senate. As the Editorial Board has argued, the Senate should not have the authority to reconfirm justices each year. It leads to exactly the sort of censorship that President Jones and the DSG Senate exemplified last week.
It is easy for tyranny to erode the democratic system while no one watches. We implore the student body to contact any Senators they know, argue for a constitutional amendment and ensure that such erosion does not occur at Duke.
Matt Straus, T’12, Chief Justice 2009-2012
Daniel Strunk, T’14, Chief Justice 2012-2014
Max Schreiber, Pratt’16, Chief Justice 2014
David Wang, T’12, Associate Justice
Gavin Forrest, T’13, Associate Justice
Kory Painter, T’13, Associate Justice
Saher Valiani, T’13, Associate Justice
Will Giles, T’15, Associate Justice
Dana Raphael, T’17, Associate Justice
Jonathan Chapman, Pratt’17, Associate Justice
Catherine Fei, Pratt’17, Associate Justice