The Council of Magistrates on Thursday approved a government review of the transfer of 10 key judges (some of them investigating Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and mostly moved by the Mauricio Macri administration) by a 7-5 vote with third party deputy Graciela Camaño of Roberto Lavagna’s Federal Consensus making the difference.
The initiative was presented several weeks ago by the government’s representative on the Council, Gerónimo Ustarróz (the foster brother of Interior Minister Eduardo “Wado” de Pedro). While the Council’s observations on the transfers initially pass to the government, the initiative also maintains that they must have Senate approval to meet all requirements, as well as consulting the Supreme Court.
Among the 10 magistrates now falling under review are the appeals court judges Leopoldo Bruglia and Pablo Bertuzzi intervening in the “cuadernos (copybooks)” trial of public works kickbacks, in which Fernández de Kirchner is the leading defendant.
The opposition argues that the transfer of these 10 judges does not require Senate approval because they have already been cleared by the Supreme Court.
Justice Minister Marcela Losardo replied to opposition arguments that the review was aimed at securing Fernández de Kirchner’s “impunity” by saying: "If we wanted impunity, there’s always amnesty and pardon but that’s never going to happen."
The Council’s decision came less than a day after the government presented its judicial reform bill while also creating a committee of experts which in the course of the next three months will be evaluating the functioning of the Supreme Court, the Council of Magistrates, the prosecutor’s office (Ministerio Público Fiscal) and trial by jury.
All these moves have been harshly criticised by the opposition, which evaluates them as Kirchnerite incursions into the judicial branch.
The transfers of magistrates were a shortcut for covering vacancies, a cumbersome process taking about three years when following normal procedure, but the government is now insisting on all the requisite steps being followed, especially Senate approval.