Last Friday in a unilateral move, Chief Justice Jorge Rivera Aviles wrote a memo transferring two of the sitting justices from one branch of the court to another. Rivera Aviles ordered that Justice Raúl Antonio Henríquez Interiano be transferred from the Penal branch to the Civil branch of the court. He further ordered that Justice Marco Vinicio Zúniga Medrano be transferred from the Civil branch to the Penal branch.
On Tuesday, the special Constitutional branch ruled the appeal of the firings by Congress of the Supreme Court Justices inadmissible by a 4-1 vote, with Justice Henríquez Interiano being the lone vote to admit the appeal. Because of this, the appeal will now go to a special full Supreme Court of judges hand picked by Jorge Rivera Aviles from the appeals court benches. A decision from this 15 judge special full Supreme Court (which only has three sitting Supreme Court justices on it) will be by majority vote. I have no doubt they will vote to not admit the appeal.
Rivera Aviles' memo arrived on the desks of the transferred justices today, and they chose to publicly respond. Justice Henriquez Interiano told the press on the Frente a Frente program this morning:
"It has never happened in the history of the Judicial Branch that a president, in an authoritarian way, rotates a justice from one branch to another."This, he points out, is against the rules adopted to govern the Supreme Court, which states that right after being appointed, the Chief Justice assigns the justices to the different branches and they serve there until their term ends. Henriquez Interiano told the press that the coordinators of each of the branches condemned the rotation.
We are not in agreement with this provision, we don't accept, and will never accept this because it violates the independence and right to employment that the judges we must have from the moment we are inducted into every branch of the court.He closed by saying he awaited Rivera Aviles' response, because unless he reverses himself, Henriquez Interiano will notify the Public Prosecutor of a possible crime committed by Rivera Aviles.
That was the nice judge. Justice Marco Vinicio Zúniga Medrano exploded:
Well, your constant trips and the [political] heights in which you travel has not permitted you to notice that you haven't been capable, up to now, to define the procedures and precise and achievable goals, and therefore we don't clearly see our course. What is clear is that with your "management style", the ship of the Judicial branch will never reach a secure port, because its captain is driving it at great speed, to an inevitable shipwreck in turbulent waters. I hope when this happens, that its not the captain who abandons ship first."
Zuniga Medrano pointed out that what Rivera Aviles did was illegal, violated the rules adopted by the Supreme Court in 2002, and anyway:
"To interpret it in any other way is only possible in the head of an ignoramus, a fool, or someone with a nervous tick caused by the ingestion of alcoholic spirits"
There's a lot more since Zuniga Medrano wrote a five page memo to Rivera Aviles. He called for Rivera Aviles to respect the justices, as he wrote to them in May, 2009:
which you surely have forgotten, as the rumors in the hallways of the court indicate, because of the pathological vast intake of alcohol.
He went on
Cease your perverse intentions, recognize me not only as a magistrate of the Civil branch but also as its coordinator or to the contrary I will proceed to file the appropriate complaints with the Office of the Public Prosecutor of the Republic, for abuse of authority and in the National Congress so that they investigate your administrative conduct.But I guess that's what you get when you conspire against your fellow justices in the Supreme Court. The spokesperson for the Supreme Court indicated that Rivera Aviles would reply today, so stay tuned.