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Perfil

ARGENTINA | 01-05-2024 22:59

Consent and dissent for Ariel Lijo on road to Supreme Court

International Legal Forum gives its support to Ariel Lijo’s bid occupy a Supreme Court bench. The federal judge’s colleagues, including María Romilda Servini de Cubría, also back his nomination, but several NGOs challenge federal judge's credentials with objections on "ethical" grounds.

The second phase of federal judge Ariel Lijo’s bid to occupy the Supreme Court bench vacated by Elena Highton de Nolasco in November 2021 stands to be completed before the middle of this month.

Lijo, 55, has recruited solid support in the judicial ranks, not only from the courtrooms of the Comodoro Py federal courthouse, but also other spheres too.

Last week, the magistrate added the International Legal Forum (ILF) to his backers. The organisation threw its public support behind Lijo, defining him as “a defender of human rights, the Constitution and the rule of law.”

Arsen Ostrovsky, a lawyer specialising in international human rights and the CEO of the ILF, has sent a letter to Justice Minister Mariano Cúneo Libarona highlighting Lijo’s distinguished performance across the board, including his “commitment and seriousness,” as well as his “personal and moral qualities.”

But other voices have made manifest their rejection. The objections will be made official on the Senate floor in the next few days when parliamentary discussion of the Executive branch’s nomination formally begins.

 

Steady balance

At first sight there is a steady balance between those who want Lijo to occupy that Supreme Court bench and those who do not. 

Most of those rejecting the nomination are lawyers, bar associations and NGOs linked to judicial independence and the fight against corruption.

The expectations of many of Lijo’s colleagues, however, are sky-high. An important number of judges beyond Comodoro Py are convinced that he will clear the stage with challenges and that the nomination will float through committee stage in the upper chamber and that he will finally be confirmed by a vote tally superior to the required two-thirds majority.

Several of his backers, consulted by Perfil, say they are doing so not only because of “his track record, training and seriousness as a judge, but also because of his attributes as a person.”

On the other hand, more than a dozen NGOs – gathered under the Red de Entidades por la Justicia Independiente de Argentina umbrella group – question his “technical capacity” for the position, saying he lacks the credentials for constitutional control. 

The NGOs further criticise his “judicial efficiency and moral deficiency,” while observing the need to respect “the necessary presence of women in the Supreme Court.”

Among Lijo’s peers, there is support and dissent. Veteran magistrate María Romilda Servini de Cubría, the longest-serving member of the Retiro-based courthouse, backs his candidacy. Susana Medina, the head of the Asociación de Mujeres Jueces de Argentina, voices in the name of all members her concern over the failure of President Javeir Milei’s government to propose a female nominee. 

The same argument has been used by dissenting senators prior to the debate, especially Unión Cívica Radical (UCR) party chairman Martín Lousteau.

 

‘Lack of ethics’

From an outside perspective, the balance has begun to swing in recent days from those in favour of Lijo – the ranks now include the trade union of court clerks headed by Julio Piumato – to those against.

The critics have been joined by high-profile voices such as veteran politician Elisa Carrió, who not only denounced Lijo previously before the Council of Magistrates but is also challenging him now.
The Coalición Cívica-ARI leader maintains that the magistrate “has been severely questioned in public with reference to his lack of ethics and independence as a federal judge.”

Other detractors of Lijo’s Supreme Court nomination include famed 1985 Trial of the Juntas prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo; the re-elected president of the City Bar Association, Ricardo Gil Lavedra; and Diana Cohen Agrest, the head of Usina de Justicia (hers is a personal opinion with the stance of her association remaining unknown for now).

The Acción Conjunta Republicana NGO has also joined the challenges, explaining that the federal judge’s experience in criminal law is insufficient for tackling constitutional issues.

Rejection is also building against Milei’s other Supreme Court nominee Manuel José García Mansilla, who has been selected to replace current justice Juan Carlos Maqueda when the latter turns 75 at the end of this year (the age limit established by the Constitution for a seat in the nation’s highest tribunal).

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by Alfredo Izaguirre, Perfil

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