Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Federal Fiscal Oversight Board Would Do Away with Island’s Judicial Independence

By on March 30, 2016

The proposed fiscal oversight board for Puerto Rico that is slated to be introduced April 11 will not only hinder the powers of the political branches of the local government but will also do away with the judicial branch’s independence.

The Supreme Court building in Washington. (AP Photo/Jon Elswick, File)

The Supreme Court building in Washington. (AP Photo/Jon Elswick, File)

The legislation imposes a so-called Mandatory Abstention to the commonwealth Supreme Court on issues pertaining to “interests in property under the laws of the territory; or interpretation of the constitution of the territory,” unless the high court has already rendered a controlling decision on the issue.

According to the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA for short), any action against the Oversight Board will have to be brought in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia and appealed to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals of Columbia, except for actions related to enforcing subpoenas or making adjustments of debts,. Both courts as well as the U.S. Supreme Court, will have to expedite matters raised to them under the Act.

For the rest of the matters, the jurisdiction shall be exclusive to the local U.S. District Court of Puerto Rico.

Meanwhile, if Puerto Rico’s federal court or the federal court for the District of Columbia ask the commonwealth Supreme Court to provide an opinion on a matter before them, the local territorial court will have to certify it no later than 10 days after the request is made and will not be able to decline providing the opinion.

“The Supreme Court will not be able to deny the certification,” noted Carlos Ramos, a constitutional law professor.

The federal legislation states that an issue that is certified shall be binding in court, other than the Supreme Court of the United States, in a proceeding arising under this title or arising in or relating to a case under this title.

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