The Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ) and its chambers of Appeals have been two additional years to their constitutional mandate without being renewed. Today marks two years of that extension of work and seven of the current magistracy at the head of the Judicial Branch.
They will not be elected in the next few days, nor in the following months, even the analysts consulted agree that the courts will not be renewed or in the next three years because throughout this time there are excuses that could delay or prevent the election of the officials until 2024, when a candidate is again summoned and a new process begins. By then the current magistracy would be completing 10 years in office.
It is Congress that must choose the courts and has delayed the process for the past two years. Even in May 2020 the Constitutional Court ordered that they be elected, however, although it is scheduled in the sessions, there is no consensus.
In the following months, interest focuses on the election of the Board of Directors and the approval of the 2022 budget, which must finance the pre-election year.
Jorge Wong, political scientist and independent analyst, believes that whoever presides over the Board of Directors should lobby the issues that will be main, both for the Government and Congress. However, he affirms that important issues such as court elections and pending laws are being relegated, which are important for the country.
Two months ahead
Congress has the decision, by parliamentary majority, not to elect the magistrates, because the current ones are comfortable with their interests, says Carmen Aída Ibarra, director of the ProJustice Movement.
“In June 2020, they decided to create a mechanism that allowed them to play with time, with the agenda, and, of course, delay the election of the magistrates as much as possible. They will not choose because they have the decision not to do so, and it is not due to lack of time, or because the agenda is complicated, it is because they are determined to keep the current magistrates in their positions, ”Ibarra said.
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With less than two months until the ordinary parliamentary activity of 2021 ends, ProJusticia assumes that the agenda ahead is the election of the board and the discussion of the General Budget of the Nation. There is no room for more.
The following year will be marked by events that directly affect the judicial system. In May 2022, the new attorney general must take office, after a nomination process that will begin in January 2022. In addition, the new director of the National Institute of Forensic Sciences is elected, in a call that will be held in April.
As for the new head of the Public Ministry, the Postulation Commission will be chaired by the current president of the Supreme Court of Justice, Patricia Valdés, and is made up of the Guatemalan Bar and Notaries Association and deans of Law of the country’s universities.
At the end of the election of the attorney general, the election of the Human Rights attorney will begin, in charge of the Human Rights Commission of Congress, which is constituted as a candidate, a very important and confrontational issue for the deputies, due to the importance of the position.
Finally, the election of the Comptroller General of Accounts, which will keep the political agenda of the country’s justice sector busy until August, when the new official takes office. This candidate is made up of professional associations and is chaired, by lottery, by a dean of Economics from the different universities in the country.
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After these elections, in the last quarter of the year, interest will focus on the nomination of candidates and preparations before the call for general elections, which will take place in June 2023.
Another factor that Ibarra points out is that the candidates for magistrates will not want to hold the position for less than five years, which makes it increasingly difficult for there to be an interest in having their mandates renewed in the middle of the term.
Effects on justice
The current courts have been the target of much criticism, because they have been politicized, despite the fact that their main function has been to deliver justice.
For Francisco Quezada, a researcher at the National Economic Research Center (Cien), the origin of the extension of the magistrates in office was a ruling by the Constitutional Court, because it altered the method of election.
“There has to be a loud election, one by one, which is impossible to fulfill. In addition, the sentence has inaccuracies, for which no deputy wants to be held responsible, because in whatever way they choose they will be violating the Constitution or the ruling, “said Quezada.
He added that the fact that there are no cuts causes short and long-term decisions not to be made with certainty by the current magistrates, because they are not sure how long they will hold the positions.
“They work from day to day. The big decisions to compose the system of administration of justice, such as lowering judicial arrears, improving the quality of judgments and selection of personnel cannot be made with a transitory court. No one can take responsibility for something that is gone in 24 hours, ”he emphasized.
For Wong, the outlook for the next few years includes brazen negotiations, because politicians are only interested in their own benefits. He added that the accommodation for not making important decisions for the country, such as the renewal of the courts, does not come only from Congress, but also from a wealthy Executive.