Former lawmaker sues to get seat back in Puerto Rico House of Representatives
SAN JUAN — The former representative for Puerto Rico’s District 27, Ramón Rodríguez, filed a lawsuit against the commonwealth’s House of Representatives for the chamber to return his seat, which he lost following after allegedly assaulting office employee Soniel Torres.
“Said recourse seeks to return this servant to the position of representative, since this some constitutional rights of this servant were violated during the process, a rigged process. A process where this servant was not given due process of law,” Rodríguez Ruiz said in a radio interview (WAPA Radio).
Rodríguez said the legal petition was filed with the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico on March 9 by attorneys Rubén Nigaglioni and his brother Luis Noel Rodríguez. The lawsuit names House Speaker Carlos Méndez, House Ethics Committee Chairman Carlos Banch and other officials.
“We are now waiting for the Supreme Court to assume jurisdiction. Once the court assumes jurisdiction, the determination made in the House on Feb. 15 would not be firm and final, which paralyzes all processes having to do with the primaries the [New Progressive Party (NPP)] is trying to hold,” he said.
The legal document says the speaker filed a complaint against the aforementioned committee without having personal knowledge of the content provided in a report by an external investigation assigned to former prosecutor Ernie Cabán.
It also challenges the administrative order that made the investigation viable. In addition, the lawsuit establishes that Rodríguez was not duly notified about two evidentiary hearings held in relation to the case.
When the process to expel Rodríguez took place, the Popular Democratic Party delegation raised the flag about the process used to hire the external investigator so that the speaker became aware of the incident and could file the complaint with the Ethics Committee.
The former NPP lawmaker said the Supreme Court’s intervention is applicable despite the case having been analyzed by his colleagues, who also decided to expel him.
“As long as the constitutional rights of every person are not violated, it is the peers who must judge every person. The fact that [those in the] House are the only ones who can judge their peers does not give any branch [the authority] to violate the constitutional rights that all Puerto Ricans have,” he said.
Rodríguez was expelled from the House on Feb. 15. Several contenders have shown interest in occupying his seat. The process will be carried out through a delegate assembly April 8.
“I have always said throughout the entire process that the only thing I have aimed for throughout the whole process is precisely that, to be given due process. I have made the same claim all the time and I have not been given due process; a trampling process has been enacted against me in which all my constitutional rights have been violated. I believe that every person should have due process and it is what I have always claimed since this process began,” he said.
“What we hope to achieve through this mandamus is for our claim to be heard and to be given what we have always demanded,” Rodríguez declared, adding that he is innocent.