Horacio Rosatti will succeed Carlos Rosenkrantz as chief justice of the Supreme Court, starting next month.
The 65-year-old had been previously tipped by both court sources and press reports to be Rosenkrantz’s successor, but nothing was final until Thursday’s vote, which took place at around noon via videoconference.
Rosatti, who will serve as chief justice for the next three years, was appointed by the Cambiemos presidency of Mauricio Macri like his predecessor. Unlike Rosenkrantz, he has previous Kirchnerite links, having served as the Justice Minister in Néstor Kirchner’s government between 2004 and 2005.
In the lead-up to this week’s vote, Supreme Court Justice Ricardo Lorenzetti – who headed the court between 2007 and 2018 – was an early frontrunner to return to the helm but his possibilities faded in recent weeks.
Rosenkrantz repeatedly stated that the decision was exclusively up to the five justices themselves and that they would not be pressured by external forces.
"We are judges up to our institutional responsibilities. We’ll decide the next chief justice of the Supreme Court before the end of the month and neither the media nor the politicians are going to influence that election," the outgoing chief justice told TN television news channel just before the PASO primaries.
Last May, Rosatti voted against President Alberto Fernández and in favour of Buenos Aires City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta in a clash to defend classroom education at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Rosatti was joined by Rosenkrantz, Lorenzetti and Juan Carlos Maqueda while Elena Highton de Nolasco abstained. Their ruling was jurisdictional, recognising that City Hall had sufficient autonomy to decide over local schooling, thus overriding a presidential decree.
Rosatti is a specialist in constitutional law who prides himself on his capacity for dialogue. Highlights of his previous career include having been mayor of Santa Fe provincial capital and the justice minister. His life has taken him to “unexpected places,” he once said in an interview.
While his identification with Peronist doctrine sets him apart from Rosenkrantz, who will now become deputy chief justice, Rosatti argues that this political background has in fact boosted his capacity for dialogue. For him, conversation between the three branches of government is “very important” while also warning “as long as the limits are respected without interference.”
Prior to being mayor of Santa Fe (1995-1999), Rosatti was a delegate in the 1994 Constitutional Reform Assembly, as well as serving as a provincial Treasury prosecutor.
According to his account, he entered the Supreme Court at the invitation of Macri’s then-vice-president Gabriela Michetti, who allegedly urged him to be “an independent judge,” a request he claims to have honoured. Macri, however, was disappointed with him, saying at one point: “Until now he has always voted with a very anti-capitalist bias.”
Macri tried to send Rosenkrantz and Rosatti into the Supreme Court in 2016 via presidential decree, sparking uproar among the Peronists, then in opposition. The Cambiemos leader was eventually forced to run their nominations through the Senate.
Rosatti maintains that he favoured taxing judges from the day he entered the Supreme Court and also backs gender equality at all judicial levels. An unabashed Justicialist, he argues that this political commitment is in fact “a plus” for the Court.
“If you ask law students or lawyers to name the most important justices in the history of the United States Supreme Court, they will give you four or five names who had intense prior political experience,” he said when interviewed by the journalist Diego Genoud for the book El peronismo de Cristina.
Rosatti defined the Justicialist Party as having a “very free” access to the party structure and “its leadership, its training and the attributes it might possess have a very spontaneous recognition.”
He has always been considered by the media as one of the “Peronist majority” along with Lorenzetti and Maqueda (the most senior justice who nominated him for chief justice), with Rosenkrantz and Highton de Nolasco as the minority.
The big unknown now concerns the link between the new chief justice and his deputy head.