Chief Justice Fiol Matta Retires
SAN JUAN – Supreme Court Chief Justice Liana Fiol Matta resigned from her position Friday, effective Jan. 31, because she will be retiring.
“After achieving a great part of my self-imposed agenda after taking over the presidency of the Supreme Court and putting through several projects vital to the administration of justice, I inform the decision to retire effective Jan. 31,” she said in statement.
Justice Fiol Matta, who became the second female chief justice of the top court, said she made the decision after a deeply analysing family and personal circumstances that require her to begin a new path after four decades dedicated to education, public service and law.
She was supposed to retire in October upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70 but opted to retire now to allow the Legislature to appoint her successor, as the there is only one session this year because of the elections.
La Fortaleza has not said who her successor will be. But her retirement will not alter the ideological balance of the top court, which has a majority of New Progressive Party-appointed justices. It is rumored La Fortaleza may promote Justice Maite Oronoz to chief justice and appoint Senate President Eduardo Bhatia to the top court.
She retires after 23 years on the bench and 30 years of government service. Justice Fiol Matta was appointed to the top court in 2004 and four years later appointed chief justice by Gov. Alejandro García Padilla.
In her Friday statement, Justice Fiol Matta said that as chief justice she managed to enhance access to the courts through education and despite the economic crisis and the crisis of trust in the top court, referring to judges who had to leave the top bench because of corruption scandals.
The top court faced a $54 million cut and was forced to impose new measures to save $24 million.
Recently, Justice Fiol Matta revealed the judicial branch’s strategic plan for 2016 to 2019, called the Justice Cardinal Points, to provide a guide in the administration of justice in the middle of new social and fiscal realities. She created the judicial branch’s educational program and the Office of Education and Community Relations.
She supported a mental health program, drug courts and specialized courtrooms that deal with domestic violence, as well as overhauled the process to deal with complaints and investigations against judges.
Justice Fiol Matta graduated from the University of Puerto Rico and earned a master’s degree from the University of Columbia, where she also received her doctorate. She was a law professor at Catholic University, the University of Puerto Rico and at Inter American University of Puerto Rico School of Law. She is dean of academics and board president of the Puerto Rico Judicial Academy.