Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Supreme Slowdown

With the deadline for the appeals panel of the Supreme Court to render a decision on the charges against José Manuel Zelaya Rosales fast approaching, one judge has chosen today to resign from the panel, allegedly citing his "friendship" with Zelaya Rosales as the cause.

The justice, Gustavo Enrique Bustillo Palma, was elected by the full court to serve on the appeals panel along with Rosa de Lourdes Paz Haslam and Marco Vinicio Zúniga Medrano on April 17. Bustillo Palma was nominated to the Supreme Court by the Universities panel in 2008. He previously served as legal advisor to the Agrarian Institute in 1983-84 and again in 1985-86. He was also briefly legal council for the Customs service. He was a family court Judge in La Ceiba, and has taught law at several universities in northern Honduras. He serves in the Constitutional law section of the Supreme Court.

The five day clock was ticking and the Supreme Court had to render a decision tomorrow, April 27. The resignation makes that moot. The court will meet today or tomorrow or whenever they please, to select a new justice to serve on the appeals panel, resetting the clock to five days after that justice is selected.

Bustillo Palma has known since April 17 that he was assigned to this case. If he actually had a friendship with Zelaya, he should have recused himself immediately, not on the day before a verdict was due. If this really was the reason he recused himself, he acted irresponsibly by not doing so earlier. Its likely there's another, more political reason that's being left unvoiced here.

What the court decides has major political consequences. If it decides to nullify the charges, then it is certain that Honduras will be readmitted to the OAS at its early June meeting. If, instead, it decides to let the case proceed, or that the charges need to be reformulated (the other possible decisions) readmission is much less likely, although Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Lobo Sosa last week to assure him she would push for it.

Restart your Supreme Court countdown clocks to look for a decision around May 4, next week, if they don't find another way to delay.

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