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November 22, 2014
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A judge to head the Magistrates Council

A view of yesterday’s Magistrates Council meeting that elected new authorities after lengthy negotiations. Judge Alejandro Sánchez Freytes, who is not a supporter of the national government, will be the new head of the Council. But Kirchenrite lawmakers will remain in control of the committee that selects judges.
By Luciana Bertoia
Herald Staff
Sánchez Freytes is backed by opposition, Kirchnerites secure commission to select judges

Six hours of tough negotiations led to the election of the new authorities that are going to run the Magistrates Council, which is in charge of the selection of judges. A judge on good terms with the opposition and who has been reported for his alleged complicity with human rights violators will be presiding the Council. But it was not all bad news for the government as Kirchnerites managed to keep control of two crown jewels: the Disciplinary Committee and selection of judges.

They sat at the table and the stood up in several occasions. The clock was ticking when they finally reached a unanimous decision in the Council, which has been in the eye of the storm during the last years when everyone agreed that it was in a gridlock. Former Council president Mario Fera decided not to take part in the voting, trying to strike a balance between Kirchnerites and opposition.

Judge Alejandro Sánchez Freytes will be the president of the Council, replacing Fera — a man aligned with the national government but who was also criticized by the Kirchnerite councillors — and he will be joined by Ricardo Recondo as his vice-president. Both of them can be included in the sector that did not back the judicial reform sponsored by President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

“Having elected two judges to lead the Council is a good signal,” celebrated yesterday councillor Daniel Ostropolsky, who represents the lawyers in the body created by the 1994 constitutional reform. “That election has a particular meaning,” he said in conversations with the Herald. What Ostropolsky meant was that in times when the Executive and the Judiciary are embroiled in a battle, magistrates will have the last word in the selection of their colleagues.

Kirchnerite Congressman Eduardo “Wado” de Pedro, a member of the youth organization La Cámpora, will be heading the committee in charge of the selection of judges, a coveted place. Last week, Security Secretary Julián Álvarez — another member of La Cámpora who was appointed to the Magistrates Council — said that he wanted to fill more than 200 vacant position with judges with “social commitment,” which was seen by opposition as the government’s intention to appoint judges aligned with Kirchnerism.

Followings days of media reporting that the presence of two members of La Cámpora organization would make things worse in the Council, the members of the body were not as disappointed as it was portrayed.

“This has been an auspicious beginning,” Ostropolsky acknowledged. “Last year, we suffered a paralysis,” he added. Yesterday, de Pedro and Álvarez showed themselves determined to reach consensus and to unlock the situation.

The new president

Though everyone — except Fera, who did not vote — agreed on the appointment of Sánchez Freytes, his naming will not probably be celebrated by human rights organizations.

Sánchez Freytes, a federal judge from Córdoba province, was reported by Grandmothers and Mothers of Plaza de Mayo as well by the UEJN court employees union led by Julio Piumato. The union accused him of “defending genocidal perpetrators.”

In 2011, the organization headed by Estela Barnes de Carlotto filed a complaint before the Magistrates Council, accusing him of poor performance after he decided to start a new probe after 13 years of investigation in the case of the appropriation of Grandmothers member Sonia Torres’ grandson.

Sánchez Freytes was also involved in another case of a snatched baby during the last dictatorship. He considered that the appropriation of a baby was not a crime against humanity, a ruling dismissed by the Appeals Court.

In 2002, he granted an extraordinary pension to former military officer Luis Alberto Manzanelli, accused of human rights violations during the military regime that ruled the country between 1976 and 1983.

In 2010, Sánchez Freytes sent Luciano Benjamín Menéndez, the man in charge of the repression in ten provinces during the dictatorship, to home detention.

Some sources said that new president was in good terms with the Kirchnerite administration and with the Supreme Court. Sources from the highest tribunal dismissed that version in conversation with the Herald.

“We have decided not to get involved in the election held at the Magistrates Council,” they said but the court was highly interested in the voting after the tribunal headed by Chief Justice Ricardo Lorenzetti decided to stop financing the Magistrates Council.

Surely Recondo is not the option that the government might have expected. The judge who has been working at the Civil and Commercial Federal Appeals Court since 2002 was one of the councillors accused of delaying a ruling in the Media Broadcasting Law case.

Commissions

“Wado” de Pedro, the member of La Cámpora organization with a better relationship with the president, will be in charge of the Selection Committee. Kirchnerite Senator Aída Itúrrez and lawyer Alejandro Fargosi (linked to BA City Mayor Mauricio Macri’s PRO) will head the Disciplinary Committee, in charge of deciding sanctions to judges. The Administrative Committee will be in the hands of Fera and Ostropolsky. The latter will be in charge of the Regulatory Committee.

This committee will this year have to regulate the law that last year was passed by the ruling party to reform the Council. Last year, the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional four of its articles, including the direct election of magistrates.

@LucianaBertoia
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