Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Congress To Censure Supreme Court

Late yesterday evening the Honduran Congress approved a bill that authorizes them to "investigate" the conduct of the four justices of the Constitutional Branch of the Supreme Court that ruled that the Law for the Purification of the Police was unconstitutional.  The motion was presented by National Party Congressman Rodolfo Zelaya, a member of president of Congress, Juan Orlando Hernandez.  Zelaya wrote:
"[I] formally present a motion to appoint a special commission to investigate the effect of the administrative conduct of the judges of the Supreme Court, particularly the Constitutional Branch on all matters relating to its administrative behavior in the area of public safety, complementing the efforts that Congress has done on the Constitution, issuing special laws to give greater security to the citizens.  It should present a detailed report to the plenary [of Congress] and other legal effects."

Zelaya cites Article 205, paragraph 20 as authorizing the investigation.  Article 205 lists the functions of Congress.  Paragraph 20 grants it the power to approve or disapprove of the administrative action of the Executive and Judicial Branches of government.  Notably lacking is the power to investigate the actions of either of the other two branches as they act within their purview, which is what this motion calls for.  Even paragraph 21, which authorizes Congress to appoint commissions to investigate matters of national interest does not contemplate investigating the other branches of government.

Not all of Congress liked the motion.  The head of the Liberal Party, José Alfredo Saavedra said:
This is a bad message both to the nation and internationally, where Congress wants one branch of government to submit to others; this flagrantly violates what is set in the Constitution of the Republic and specifically with the independence of powers.....This is flagrant intimidation against another branch of the government called the Judicial Branch.

German Leitzelar bluntly told Congress that his party, PINU, would not support the law because it was transparently about investigation the court's judicial conduct, not its administrative conduct, and that was improper.
Another Liberal Party Congressman, Wenceslao Lara, recommended that instead of passing the motion, Congress appoint itself better lawyers so that they don't approve such poor quality laws.

Roy Urtecho, attached to the Public Prosecutor's office said that the Congressmen that approved the motion were in danger of commiting the crimes of treason, abuse of authority, and interfering with the operation of a government official.
The [Constitutional] Branch is the final and definitive interpreter of the of the Constitution, and it is the branch which exclusively determines unconstitutionality....In consequence, you should understand that whatever pronouncement, indication, or objection the other branches of government have, on these juridical positions, interference in the exercise of the powers given by the Constitution breaks the constitutional principle of separation of powers."
To approve the review of the conduct of the Judicial branch with respect to things that have nothing to do with the conduct or administrative function [of the Judicial branch] implies opening the door to a kind of political judgement...which is not contemplated in the actual Constitution.
Urtecho goes on to say that such conduct puts Congress at the edge of illegality.

Congress voted 63 - 2 with two abstentions to approve the motion, only half of Congress having been present.  Congress then named a 9 person commission, consisting of 4 National Party members, 2 Liberal Party Members, 1 Christian Democrat, 1 PINU Party member.  German Leitzelar, who was appointed as the PINU party representative, said that 5 of the commission members are supporters of Juan Orlando Hernandez, the National Party presidential candidate for the 2013 elections.  Leitzelar said that he would not be part of the Congressional commission.

The commission will return a motion of censure today.

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