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Friday, September 22, 2023


New SGA Chief Justice pursuing his vision for judicial branch

Contrasting previous Chief Justices, Canyon Sanford has made his voice and the judicial branch's presence clearly visible at every SGA meeting. |The Cougar/Leen Basharat
Newly appointed Chief Justice Canyon Sanford speaks during an SGA meeting. | The Cougar/Leen Basharat

Newly appointed Chief Justice Canyon Sanford is the new force behind Student Government Association’s Supreme Court.

His first item of business, Ballot Measure 52001, a SGA Constitutional amendment revamping the judicial branch’s structure, was recently passed by the student body with 79.81 percent approval.

His second item of business, one that will continue through the end of his term, is introducing a process to have a more inclusive Supreme Court in SGA that deals with items of business past the SGA election season and serves the University and its student body.

“It shouldn’t be involved in the fares, but it needs to make itself far more open for the University or Student Government to come to it and work with it,” Sanford said. “It’s not all just legislation, it’s also about reaching out and working with the University.”

Sanford was the eager freshman who had a grand vision to lead, but he came short in his first attempt to be an SGA senator.

Although things didn’t work in his favor when running for Bauer College for Business, a fellow senator saw his drive and gave him the opportunity to take over her Honors College senatorial seat.

“If I were to describe Canyon in two words, they would be driven and gentlemanly,” political science senior and former Honors College senator Charlotte Christian said. “Canyon has a drive to get things done to improve his community, and he’s quite possibly the most polite and cordial person I’ve ever met.”

Christian first met Sanford while she was a resident assistant. Despite the elaborate prank wars he started on her floor, Christian very soon realized Sanford had a work ethic and commitment to making a difference that she felt embodied the ideal candidate to take over her position.

“Though Canyon lost his race, I saw how dedicated he was to serving the school,” Christian said. “By this time, I had gotten to know Canyon, and I knew that he would be more than capable to take over as Honors senator.”

After succeeding the nomination, Sanford participated in several committees.  As Vice Chair on the Food Service Advisory Committee, he was one of many to contribute to Freshii’s establishment on UH’s campus.

However, Sanford faced defeat for his seat in re-election.

“I’m somebody who likes to serve, and I didn’t not want to serve SGA. I wanted to continue to work there,” Sanford said.

So, Sanford appeared before former president Shaun Theriot-Smith for the Attorney General vacancy, but Theriot-Smith saw him well suited for a different role.

Noting Sanford’s work toward becoming a judge advocate general within the U.S. Marine Corps, Theriot-Smith matched his qualities and potential to the role of SGA Chief Justice.

“He has also always shown an eagerness to volunteer and go the extra mile for student government,” Theriot-Smith said. “His training and intentions with the USMC are a dependable foundation for a position that requires the ability to be unbiased and professional.”

Thus, he was nominated and confirmed as a associate justice during fall 2015, and later re-nominated and re-confirmed as Chief Justice for spring 2016 to meet SGA regulations.

However, Sanford’s work has only just begun.

“Our number one thing right now is to go through the bylaws and fix those. We’ve got the skeleton, now we have to work around it,” Sanford said.

Some of the judicial branch requirements Sanford wants to reassess are the number of justices, justices’ responsibilities, the abilities of the court, the number of required judicial meetings, legislation dockets and where the Supreme Court fits in the overall structure of SGA.

“There’s definitely a lot of work that needs to be sorted out, but we’re moving in the right direction, being open and responsible, and that’s what’s really important,” Sanford said.


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