December 11, 2013
Lorenzetti: ‘Every judge has an ideology’
Chief justice says court is ‘analyzing’ Media Law case, denies conservative credentials
With the Supreme Court mulling over its imminent ruling on the Broadcast Media Law, Chief Justice Ricardo Lorenzetti yesterday tried his best to avoid mentioning the law approved by Congress in 2009 and frozen since then by several successful injunction requests filed by the Clarín Group, the biggest media group in the country.
“We’re analyzing the issue,” Lorenzetti said yesterday, clearly dodging questions. “We’ll try to do our best, taking into account the different ideas involved.”
Three weeks after the two public hearings took place in which the law was discussed by advocates for the state and the media conglomerate, Lorenzetti appeared in what could be considered partial ground, as the conference was organized by the San Andrés University, which offers a journalism masters in partnership with the Clarín Group and some of its professors appeared at the hearings as the media conglomerate’s amici curiae.
When the chief justice appeared on the stage of the British Arts Centre in Buenos Aires City, a young man wearing a suit stood up and showed a banner. “As a citizen, I am here to reject your presence in a place linked to Clarín Group,” the man shouted. “As a lawyer, it embarrasses me that it has been four years since the Broadcast Media Law was passed, and it has not been enforced,” he added.
The man identified himself as Nicolás Rodríguez Saá, a distant relative of the former San Luis governors, and said that he was a lawyer working for the National Food Health Service (SENASA).
“We have to give explanations and answer questions,” Lorenzetti replied in a cold manner. “We shouldn’t get nervous due to questions. I’m speaking here, regardless of who runs the university. Days ago, I visited the University of La Matanza and they asked me the same question but with an opposite meaning,” the chief justice added.
Lorenzetti compared the criticism to the situation he suffered in 2011 at the University of Buenos Aires Law School, when he presented his book “Human Rights: Justice and Reparations,” when a group of children and grandchildren of military officers who were imprisoned for crimes committed during the dictatorship staged a loud protest.*
Democratizing the courts
Yesterday’s conference focused on democratic debate and the role of the judiciary in times when the Executive is promoting the democratization of the Judiciary. In June, the country’s most important justices considered that the essential part of the judicial reform package sponsored by Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s administration, the direct vote of those trying to obtain a seat at the Magistrates Council, was unconstitutional.
Lorenzetti highlighted that he had been saying for 30 years that the Judiciary needed to change and he especially referred to the legal jargon, which is a point highlighted by those who demand a democratization process.
“When judges deliver a sentence, sometimes they do not protect the right every citizen has in order to understand and judge every ruling,” Lorenzetti acknowledged. “Judges must contribute to the democratic discussion, though every judge has an ideology, a paradigm.”
Days before the adverse ruling over the Judicial reform package, Fernández de Kirchner raised the issue of the politicization of judges, reminding that a former senator introduced her to Lorenzetti, who was proposed by then president Néstor Kirchner to become a member of the Supreme Court.
“I have never been a conservative judge and those who appointed me knew that,” Lorenzetti said yesterday. Lorenzetti emphasized that, in his view, a progressive judge believes in broad access to the courts, in real equality, and in environmental rights.
“The problem is not ideology, the problem is to rule in an impartial way,” the chief justice said.
“We are living in an extraordinary moment when controversies can be discussed. I have already said that conflict is the driving force for change,” he argued.
In the conference, he was joined by journalists Luis Novaresio and Magdalena Ruiz Guiñazú, San Andrés University professor Eduardo Zimmermann and the editor-in-chief of the Judicial information centre (CIJ), María Bourdin.
“It is an undeniable fact that justice is slow,” Lorenzetti said during the last minutes of his presentation, a day after the Supreme Court set up commissions to speed up criminal trials.
*CORRECTION: Due to an editing error, this article incorrectly stated that those who protested against Lorenzetti in 2011 were children and grandchildren of dictatorship victims. In reality, they were children and grandchildren of military officers who were imprisoned for dictatorship-era crimes.