With the blockage in the renewal of several substantive constitutional bodies and shortly after the last call of attention from Brussels on the situation of the General Council of the Judiciary, the Government and the Popular Party have once again engaged on account of the independence of the Justice. The latest statements by Minister Pilar Llop, who in an interview with EL PAÍS published this Sunday pointed out that she saw “quite unlikely” from the legal point of view that the Supreme Court’s Contentious Chamber could annul the pardons to the inmates of the process They immediately provoked criticism from PP and Ciudadanos (Cs), who accused the head of Justice of interference and raised the tone again against the Executive of Pedro Sánchez.
“Perhaps who does want to influence is who is saying that I have some intention of influencing,” Llop defended himself this Monday at the end of an act in Castrillón (Asturias). PP, Vox and Cs presented appeals to the Supreme Court in June against the grace measure granted by the Government. “Whoever makes these demonstrations surely does not know what the judicial system is like and the absolute independence that the Supreme Court magistrates have,” he added. The minister, a career magistrate who took office in the Executive less than a month ago, has indicated that she has “absolute respect” for court decisions.
Also this Monday, the secretary of Justice and Interior of the PP, Enrique López, who was critical of Llop’s statements on Sunday, has once again lashed out at the minister by pointing out that it is “inappropriate” and “irresponsible” for the head of Justice rules on this type of resolution. “If there is a minister who should not have an opinion on judicial decisions, it is the Justice. To anticipate what the Third Chamber can or cannot do in terms of pardons is inappropriate, irresponsible and is not typical of a Minister of Justice ”, López declared to the media after visiting the courts of Plaza de Castilla, in Madrid .
Pilar Llop is not the only member of the Government who has publicly stated that she sees it unlikely that the Contentious-Administrative Chamber of the Supreme Court will revoke the pardons granted to the inmates of the process. Days before, the Minister of Defense, Margarita Robles, who has been a magistrate of the same chamber, expressed herself in similar terms in an interview with the Europa Press (EP) agency. Robles said that he “did not contemplate” the scenario of the high court accepting the resources of the parties against the grace measure. The Supreme Court’s jurisprudence recognizes that pardon is a government prerogative and generally only revokes a government pardon when it is decidedly arbitrary and lacks due formal motivation, as in the case of a kamikaze driver whose pardon was annulled in November 2013.
The Minister of Justice and Interior in the Madrid Government of Isabel Díaz Ayuso has added in an interview in La Sexta that the Minister of Justice should not pronounce on what should be “the best solution” to the appeal against the law that regulates abortion that Another issue addressed in the interview with EL PAÍS must be resolved by the Constitutional Court. Llop stated that “now is not the time” to address this issue, that doing so “would mean an absolute setback for women’s health and reproductive rights” and that what is appropriate is “to advance in rights.”
In the same vein as López, the PP Deputy Secretary General for Social Policy, Ana Pastor, has asked the Minister and the rest of the Government to “leave the State institutions alone and leave the judges to act independently.” During a ceremony held in Lugo, Pastor recalled that “in Spain there is separation of powers” and pointed out that “the Government cannot interfere or prophesy about what the courts are going to do.” “We ask you not to interfere and not try to influence the decisions of the courts because fortunately we have an independent judicial system,” he has sentenced.
These criticisms are added to those made on Sunday by the deputy secretary general of Cs, Edmundo Bal, who considered that Llop’s words represent “political interference in the judiciary and an attack against the division of powers.”
The judges’ associations have also spoken out on Monday. Speaking to Europa Press, Concepción Rodríguez, spokesperson for the Independent Judicial Forum, has positioned herself “very much against” what Llop affirmed, considering that the ministry “has to be respectful with the separation of powers”, while the spokesperson for Judges and Judges for Democracy, Ascensión Martín, assured that the words of the person in charge of Justice are “the result of freedom of expression.”
The new friction between the Government and the PP, this time on account of the improbability of the cancellation of the pardons granted to the leaders of the process, gives little hope that the renewal of the constitutional bodies will be unblocked around the August holidays. The General Council of the Judiciary has been in office since December 2018 at the expiration of the five-year term, and has broken all extension records, but its replacement remains stalled in Congress. And this despite the mediation undertaken in recent months by the President of the Supreme Court and the Judiciary, Carlos Lesmes. This has replaced the public appeals to the parties to agree to renewal by contacts with the leader of the PP, Pablo Casado and the Minister of the Presidency, Félix Bolaños. The agreement seems far away.
Enrique López has also referred this Monday to the renewal and has affirmed that in “all the PP” they are “aware” of the constitutional obligations they have, but he has insisted that from Brussels they also ask that the Law be reformed “as soon as possible” Organic of the Judicial Power so that the judicial members are elected “directly by their peers”, while the Government opts for the renewal and then the reform of the law to be carried out first.
By refusing to agree to the renewal, the PP retains the conservative majority in the governing body of judges in force since 2013, when Mariano Rajoy ruled with an absolute majority. Pablo Casado’s party has raised various pretexts to avoid undertaking the replacement of the 20 members of the Council —twelve career judges and the other eight belong to other legal professions—, and to adapt it to the current composition of the Courts. The judicial governing body is elected by a three-fifths majority in Congress and the Senate, which gives the first opposition party blocking power.
In recent years, the PP has rejected that Podemos enter the distribution of vowels; has vetoed candidates such as Judge José Ricardo de Prada, who intervened in the Gürtel case; and now, it demands a legal reform so that the members of judicial extraction are chosen by the judges themselves. All this keeps the Council paralyzed, especially after a legal reform promoted in March by the Government prevents the body from making appointments to the judicial leadership.
The Constitutional Court is also pending partial renewal. For a year and a half, four of the twelve magistrates have expired. The PP imposes its blocking minority in Congress —without its vote, the necessary three-fifths are not reached— to prevent the substitution. In this case, the balances would remain intact: there would be five magistrates elected at the proposal of the PSOE and seven from the PP. But that situation will change shortly, when the Government appoints the two magistrates that correspond to it and who replace the two that in its day the Executive of Mariano Rajoy appointed.
Since July 23, the twelve councilors of the Court of Accounts are also pending renewal – six for each Chamber by a three-fifths majority. In this administrative body, the PP asserts its majority of seven directors after the 2012 relief.