Río Negro senator and former governor Alberto Weretilneck on Monday presented a bill to reform the Supreme Court raising the number of justices to 16 with gender equality and representation for regions across the country to ensure federalism.
“This bill aims at strengthening the institutional role of the Highest Tribunal, promoting equality between men and women and effectively guaranteeing federalism, as established by the first article of our Constitution,” maintained the senator, a frequent ally of the Kirchnerite majority in the upper house.
A group of legal experts, headed by the lawyer José Manuel Ubeira, have been working on a similar bill with the approval of both President, Alberto Fernández and Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
The proposal is seen as tacit recognition of the recent and ongoing confrontation with the top tribunal.
In line with the ruling party, Weretilneck said that the proposal seeks to ensure that the federal and national justice systems is "respected, valued and is a reference at the judicial level."
“The conduct in recent weeks of the Supreme Court in relation to structuring the Council of Magistrates has aggravated a process which has been long in the making – a politicisation of the Court in the worst sense of the word and the concentration of enormous power into the hands of four men,” warned the senator.
“We believe that a numerical expansion of the Court with federal participation and gender equality are necessary conditions for taking a step towards improving the current system, whose functioning is worrying,” he rounded out.
The future Court (adding 12 new justices to the current quartet) “should include at least three members from each region, either born there or with at least eight years’ residence.”
The initiative divides the country into five regions: Federal Capital, Buenos Aires Province, the North (Jujuy, Salta, Tucumán, Chaco, Formosa, Corrientes, Misiones and Santiago del Estero), the Centre (La Rioja, Catamarca, Mendoza, San Juan, San Luis, Córdoba, Santa Fe and Entre Ríos) and the South (Neuquén, La Pampa, Rio Negro, Chubut, Santa Cruz y Tierra del Fuego).
“This new qualitative composition effectively guarantees the federal criterion which should reign in every institution, as established in the first article of our Magna Carta,” considered Weretilneck.
The top tribunal, according to the bill, will function in five courtrooms each consisting of three justices with the chief justice not being able to belong to any of them.
“The chief justice of the Court will be designated by the majority vote of the totality of magistrates forming it with a term running for one year. There can be no consecutive election for any one region.”
The chief justice currently serves a three-year term with indefinite re-election.
Each of the separate courtrooms will have specialties which have yet to be specified by the bill.
“It is clear that the top tribunal is overwhelmed. (…) We could opt for limiting the number of cases or we could add magistrates,” reflected the senator.
Weretilneck considered that “the problem of a partisan [Supreme] Court, whether in favour or against the sitting government, addicted to it or at odds against it, is the politicisation in the bad sense which the present bill seeks to end.”
He said in an interview Tuesday that he had not discussed the bill with Fernández de Kirchner, but that he considered it to be "what the country needs."