August 20, 2014
Campagnoli’s defence tries to bury case
Collapsed impeachment tribunal faces doubts, decision may end up in Supreme Court
The six remaining jurors in the impeachment tribunal against suspended prosecutor José María Campagnoli will meet today at 11.30am behind closed doors to discuss the future of the case that imploded on Friday with the prolonged absence of juror María Cristina Martínez Córdoba.
A children’s court defence lawyer Martínez Córdoba resigned from the tribunal on Wednesday after a period of stress-related sick leave, leaving a void that could make or break the case against Campagnoli.
She had been described as the tribunal’s deciding vote.
The defence — led by former Radical Civic (UCR) lawmaker Ricardo Gil Lavedra — is trying to prevent the impeachment tribunal from resuming proceedings based on technical grounds. On the other side, the prosecution and jurors are scrambling to salvage what remains of one the most high-profile legal battles of recent times.
The remaining six jurors are today expected to discuss three main issues: the appointment of one of two candidates to join them in the tribunal, a request by Campagnoli’s defence to lift his suspension, and finally the date that the proceedings against the suspended prosecutor could start over. They will be joined today by Nicolás Toselli, one of the public defenders who had been earmarked as Martínez Córdoba’s replacement.
Various sources agree that the most workable alternative will be to hold a new trial, especially to avoid challenges and appeals once a decision is issued. Should Campagnoli have been removed from his position as the head of the Saavedra neighbourhood decentralized unit, he would have been able to file an appeal before the Administrative Appeals Court and then take the case to the Supreme Court.
A legal battle ahead?
The president of the Impeachment Tribunal assessing Campagnoli’s performance, Daniel Adler, yesterday conceded the issue of the case’s continuity could reach as far as the Supreme Court, since it is likely to be assessed by higher authorities in the judicial system. He claimed the tribunal’s members had been “working permanently” to resume proceedings.
“Despite the (impeachment) jury’s decisions not being subject to judicial review during the proceedings, there have been attempts to take it (the case) to the judiciary, and the injunctions that have been requested have ultimately been reviewed by the judiciary,” Adler said. “The tribunal’s decisions have been rectified,” he added.
The defence team led by former Radical (UCR) party lawmaker Ricardo Gil Lavedra is claiming it will continue pushing for Campagnoli’s reinstatement as a prosecutor. Gil Lavedra said the responsibility for the case having collapsed lies solely in the hands of the tribunal, and as such his suspension should be lifted and the suspended prosecutor himself not be subject to a new round of hearings.
The law “allows for an injunction request to be filed” against the jury’s final decision in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, Adler explained yesterday, in an interview with Radio Splendid.
For its part, the prosecution yesterday downplayed the defence’s chances.
“Beyond what the defence says, the (Procedural) Code establishes that a suspended case must be held again,” lead prosecutor Adolfo Villate told La Nación newspaper yesterday.
Top of today’s agenda among jurors will be how to tackle the issue of Martínez Córdoba’s replacement.
On Friday, the same day the case against Campagnoli collapsed, the Public Defender’s office appointed Toselli, who had yet to be appointed a public defender when the impeachment trial began. The 35-year-old had previously been a lower court and appellate court defence lawyer in La Plata. His appointment was the result of a draw among 70 other public prosecutors, the Public Defender reported.
The other candidate is Leonardo Miño, who was recused by the Public Prosecutor’s Office last week, only to reject his appointment as Martínez Córdoba’s replacement on Friday, claiming he should have been recused earlier when he participated in the same jury as it resolved the recusal of separate member of the impeachment tribunal.
Miño is a member of the Magistrates Association, which had originally voiced its criticism of the case against Campagnoli. Miño did not sign the Association’s declaration denouncing the impeachment tribunal. He had been Martínez Córdoba’s designated substitute from the outset.
Once the jurors resolve the issue of Martínez Córdoba’s replacement, they are then expected to push forth with plans to re-launch the proceedings into accusations Campagnoli committed malfeasance and infringed the jurisdiction of a colleague investigating Kirchnerite businessman Lázaro Báez. The opposition claims the accusations against him are politically motivated to impede members of the judiciary from investigating government corruption.
If a new trial is carried out, it will have to take place before October, when the charges against Campagnoli expire.
Herald staff with DyN