Monday, January 14, 2013

Third Time's the Charm?

Today Honduran Supreme Court Chief Justice Rivera Aviles named a new special Constitutional Branch of the Supreme Court. 

We are now up to the third Constitutional Branch named to hear the legal appeals concerning the dismissal of four Supreme Court justices in an illegal act by the Honduran Congress last December 12.

The first attempt at a new Constitutional Branch, formed when Rivera Aviles seated the four de-facto justices named by Congress, recused itself from hearing this case. 

The second, made up of Supreme Court justices who had signed a letter in support of the dismissed justices, recused itself because of personal friendship with the parties in the case.

Today Rivera Aviles named himself, Víctor Manuel Martínez, José Tomás Arita Valle, and Raúl Antonio Henríquez, all currently Supreme Court justices, to a specially constituted panel to hear the case, along with Judith Utrecho Lopez, head of the Judicial School.

The panel now has 72 hours to decide if it can hear the appeal.

Arita Valle, you may recall, is the justice who claims to have signed the secret warrant that purportedly authorized the military to arrest President Mel Zelaya in the coup of 2009, an action for which the US Embassy temporarily removed his visa to enter the US.

This third panel may still recuse itself because Justice Raul Henriquez did speak out against the firings as an unconstitutional act and more or less called the Chief Justice Rivera Aviles a liar when Rivera Aviles claimed not to have participated in negotiation sessions leading to the Congressional action with Juan Orlando Hernandez.

This latest attempt to set in place a hearing panel, by the way, exhausts the occupants of the Supreme Court. Should this panel recuse itself, Rivera Aviles will have to turn to appeals court judges, or the list of 30 nominees to the Supreme Court from last time that weren't elected by Congress to serve.

And meanwhile, the Honduran Supreme Court remains in limbo, with four current serving justices whose status has been questioned, and four others who seek to regain their position.

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