The Argentine government confirmed on Wednesday it would file a ‘per saltum’ plea to the Supreme Court to try and reverse a ruling from a federal judge that declared several articles of the Judicial reform, ‘unconstitutional’ particularly those referred to the Magistrates Counsel.
The reaction from the government of President Cristina Fernandez to Federal Judge Maria Servini de Cubría was immediate. The Magistrates Counsel is the body that names, sanctions and fires judges.
“We don’t want to risk the citizens’ constitutional rights,” Justice Minister Julio Alak said on Wednesday adding an appeal will be filed “between today and Friday.”
”The national state will appeal that ruling because it declares unconstitutional what is an absolute constitutional law,” he warned.
Asked about how this could affect the electoral calendar and deadlines, the minister said “we understand the appeal will suspend the ruling effect”.
Servini de Cubría ruled in favour of a complaint filed by the head of the Argentine College of Attorneys Jorge Rizzo and the attorney for the Christian Democratic Party Carlos Lionel Traboulsi.
The Judge ruled on articles 2, 4, 18 and 30 of the Magistrates Counsel Bill 26.855 and on Decree 577/13 calling for elections of counsellors, lawyers, judges and academics, which must be presented on 12 June ahead of the parties primaries and the October mid-term election.
Under the judicial reform recently promulgated by President Cristina Fernandez the number of magistrates in the counsel is increased from 13 to 19, and half of them need not be solicitors, former judges or academics, but rather political appointees, and the list of candidates must be presented by political parties that have representation in at least 18 Argentine electoral districts or provinces. Obviously the only party to have such national representation is the ruling “Victory Front” from President Cristina Fernandez.
The new system also simplifies procedures which means among other things that by a simple majority, and not special majorities, it can displace, sanction or fire judges.
Practically all lawyer associations, independent judges and opposition parties have united in condemning the new measures as a serious assault on the Constitution and joined to trigger tens of judicial challenges to the reform.
But defending the reform and criticizing the ruling from Judge Servini de Cubría, -Senator and former cabinet chief Anibal Fernandez said judges pretend to rule. “They think they have the faculty to put themselves on top of the other branches (of government),” he warned.
In statements to a local radio station, the ruling Victory Front party Senator defended the recently signed law that sought the direct election of the Counsel of Magistrates’ members in the upcoming legislative elections. In that sense, Fernández voiced concern about Servini de Cubría’s decision considering it goes against “popular will.”
However the head of the Buenos Aires City Bar Association Jorge Rizzo praised the ruling by María Servini de Cubría against the reform of the Council of Magistrates and said that the government might expect another setback if it turns to the Supreme Court.
“The election of Magistrates had already been banned and suspended; but this is much more important because it is a key sentence. The only thing I can say is long live the Republic” Rizzo –one of the lawyers to sponsor the lawsuit against the government’s Council of Magistrates law-, celebrated.
Members of the Supreme Court that this week were strongly criticized by President Cristina Fernandez, as they have been for weeks, said members were not planning to resign. But Argentine political analysts anticipate that if the per saltum fails, Cristina Fernandez could target some its members, for which until next October, she has the necessary legislative support in Congress.