The Puerto Rico Bar Association presented an extensive and comprehensive list with what it considers to be the requirements that must be met by the person appointed to fill the vacancy of the judge that will soon open in the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico, as part of an effort to orient the people and the people in the government and the legislature who are in charge of nominating and electing the future judge of the Supreme Court.
It is expected that on December 24 a vacancy will open in the Supreme Court when Judge Anabelle Rodríguez Rodríguez turns 70 and, by law, retires. That would leave a space of just five working days for the outgoing governor Wanda Vázquez to convene an extraordinary session of the current majority legislature of the New Progressive Party (PNP) to attend and approve an eventual appointment. Vázquez has told the press that he intends to carry out this procedure once the vacancy arises.
The list of criteria, which includes academic, professional and character elements, was drawn up by members of the Special Commission on Appointments and Judicial Promotions, which comprise a wide panel of former judges, professors, and lawyers, including litigants in the civil sphere, criminal and labor, from various parts of the island.
According to the lawyer Mark Anthony Bimbela Quiñones, president of the Special Commission, the requirements that the candidate for a judge in general, and in particular a judge of the Supreme Court must meet, and that they must demonstrate before being appointed and not afterwards, are the following:
-Preparation and academic training.
-Non-legal professional experience.
-Legal professional experience.
-Competence: knowledge and mastery of law in your area of practice; knowledge and mastery of the general principles of substantive and procedural law; publications, writings and legal arguments; analytical capacity and intellectual and creative aptitude; cases of importance and notoriety in which it has participated.
-Moral solvency: integrity, honesty, human quality.
-Emotional balance: serenity and self-control; reaction to stressful situations; room control; judicial temperament; introspection.
-Laboriosidad and productivity: average of hours worked daily during the last two years; average number of cases brought and concluded annually during the last two years.
-Vocation, dedication to public service and pro-bono.
-Legal sensitivity: sense of justice subject to legality; understanding of the social purposes of law; freedom of judgment (independence of judgment).
In the case of candidates for Supreme Court judges, in addition, since they are the highest forum, they must meet these additional criteria:
-Superior knowledge of law in general and of the Puerto Rican legal system, with particular emphasis on knowledge of constitutional law.
-Vast legal experience in the largest number of areas that make up the practice of law, particularly the judicial branch.
-Full understanding and superior sensitivity to the problems and realities of lawyers admitted to the practice of the profession.
-Understanding of the history and the social, political and economic environment that serves as a framework for Puerto Rican legal work.
-History of collaboration with the robed and judicial class of the country that points to a future commitment towards solving the problems faced by lawyers and the judiciary in their development within the judicial system.
-Capacity of democratic leadership that contributes to the formation of consensus in the collegiate forum to which it will belong.
-Impartiality and independence of criteria (as defined in Canon 8 of Judicial Ethics).
Bimbela argued that those criteria that were put to the country’s consideration were objectives that every person with a position within the judiciary should have, and “allow anyone to assess whether the appointments made to the judiciary are really worthwhile. , that they have and comply with all these criteria, and that they are oblivious to other considerations that lead to the people’s concern and mistrust ”.
For her part, Daisy Calcaño López, president of the College, warned that this entity, as it has done for a long time, “will always be the voice” and would remain vigilant to ensure that the best candidate for Supreme Court judge is chosen and recovers trust in institutions with public and transparent processes.
“Our society has witnessed the erosion of the prestige and credibility of the three branches of government, the executive, the legislative and, to a lesser extent, the judicial branch. Political scandals, acts of public corruption, the actions of some public or elected officials that have culminated in accusations and convictions, have produced in civil society a mistrust that undermines participatory democracy that we all exalt as a chimera, but we are unable to achieve “, he claimed.
López condemned “the use of positions in the judiciary as a reward for the political acolytes of the party in power, or as a refuge for defeated politicians”, and warned that “the results of the past elections highlighted the rejection of society to the form in which public affairs are handled ”.
“This is the time to begin the reform of judicial appointment processes, to adopt objective criteria that promote the selection of the most suitable candidates so that they can deliver justice without ties to political parties,” added the president of the College. “Any judicial appointment must respond to the interests of the people, and not to the interests of political parties.”
However, the attorneys acknowledged that the governor and legislators had broad discretion to, respectively, appoint and approve the new supreme judge.