The courts of Comodoro Py, where the Federal Chamber of Criminal Cassation is located (Photo: Franco Fafasuli)
One of the most important places of federal justice began to be put into play. At 8:30 a.m., 44 applicants appeared to take the exam to get a place in the Federal Chamber of Cassation, the court through which all investigations and oral trials of corruption and organized crime in the country take place. It is a seat of the most precious courts of Comodoro Py and that politics always watches closely.
The position at stake is the one left last September by Liliana Catucci in the Cassation Room III. Catucci was a history of the court that arrived when it was inaugurated in the 90 years during the government of Carlos Menem. The judge retired when she reached the age of 75 and she did not obtain a court ruling allowing her to continue. The vacancy is the only one in Cassation. The other 12 places are filled by regular judges.
With the departure of Catucci, the Council of the Nation’s Judiciary called for a public contest to fill the vacancy. 95 people signed up, including judges and lawyers. But the contest began with controversy. One of those registered was the federal judge of Mendoza Walter Bento, who is prosecuted with preventive detention -which is not effective due to his privileges as a magistrate- for integrating an illicit association that collected bribes in exchange for favorable judicial resolutions.
Due to this situation, the Council excluded him from the contest. It was the first decision that the Council took with its new integration after the arrival to its presidency of Horacio Rosatti, head of the Supreme Court.
Bento’s exclusion was unanimously because the contest regulations establish that those who “are subject to pending criminal proceedings for intentional crime cannot register; in which an indictment order has been decreed”. And that is the situation of Bento, who has also been issued preventive detention that cannot be made effective because he has detention privileges due to his position as a judge.
The contest formally began today with the written exam. It is a test where the applicants must solve a judicial case that the jury presents to them. The test was done in the Office of Judicial Auctions of the Judicial Power of the Nation, located in the Buenos Aires neighborhood of Once.
Of the 95 registered, 70 confirmed that they were going to take the exam but they were only 44, of which 12 are women.
Among them there are several judges from Comodoro Py who know the Cassation Chamber closely. Some of them are Jorge Gorini, judge of the oral court that currently judges Vice President Cristina Kirchner, and who had other cases such as the Lapa and Once tragedies. The also magistrates of oral courts Gabriela López Iñiguez, José Michilini and Fernando Machado Pelloni. López Iñíguez and Michilini acquitted Cristina Kirchner in the case for signing the memorandum with Iran. The judge was one of those who sentenced Báez for money laundering and former Federal Planning Minister Julio De Vido for the Once tragedy. Michilini convicted the former Secretary of Public Works José López for his bags of nine million dollars and had the future dollar case in which he refused to acquit Cristina Kirchner, which the Cassation Chamber later did.
Also on the list are Pablo Bertuzzi, judge of the Federal Chamber of Comodoro Py transferred during the government of Mauricio Macri, which was challenged and ended in a case in the Supreme Court; the judge of first instance Sebastián Ramos; his colleague from Tucumán Fernando Poviña; the lawyer Maximiliano Rusconi, former Administrative Investigation Prosecutor and who was nominated to be Federal Cassation Prosecutor; and the member of the Supreme Court of Mendoza Omar Palermo.
Along with López Iñiguez there are other registered women, among them the official defender before the Oral Courts Pamela Bisserier, the member of the Economic Criminal Oral Court 3 Karina Perilli and the judge of Criminal Enforcement Jimena Monsalve, who was secretary of Cassation. Bisserier and Perrilli already participated in the previous contest for Cassation and had been shortlisted but other magistrates were chosen for the positions.
Women can be key in the contest. It is that with the departure of Catucci many believe that her place should be for a woman to respect gender parity in Cassation. Of its current 12 members, only two are women, Angela Ledesma and Ana María Figueroa. And in the last appointments in Cassation -in 2018- four men Guillermo Yacobucci, Daniel Petrone, Diego Barroetaveña and Javier Carbajo were appointed.
The Council of the Judiciary of the Nation
Today’s exam is the first step. Then the jury will make the corrections and put a score, which can be challenged so that they are requalified. With this, a first score is made for the candidates. The Council’s Selection Committee then assigns a second score for each candidate’s work and academic background. Thus, an order of merit arises from the best who are summoned to a personal interview for the total and definitive qualification.
Then it goes to the more political stage. The Council draws up a short list that must be approved so that it can pass to the Executive Power, where one of the applicants is chosen so that it can be appointed and approved by the Senate of the Nation.
But the process is not easy. Today the Council has finished the contests for three courts of first instance, two vacancies in the Federal Chamber and half a dozen positions in the Federal Oral Courts, all of Commodore Py. But there is no political agreement between the ruling party and the opposition to approve them. The Cassation contest could suffer the same fate. And next year is the presidential election in the country, which makes the scenario more complex.
The expectation is that the arrival of Rosatti to the Council can bring the ruling party and the opposition closer to building new agreements.
The Chamber also rejected the request of Luis Juez to enter the Council of the Judiciary