Lawmaker urges constitutional amendment on judge selection in Puerto Rico
SAN JUAN — Puerto Rico Rep. José Varela was requesting the passage Monday of House Concurrent Resolution 8, which he authored and introduced on Jan. 2, calling for a constitutional amendment referendum so the judge selection process is conducted by the judicial branch and to establish a merit-based judicial career system in which selection is based on competency.
“Once again, cases of illegal and unethical behavior of members of the judiciary emerge, which allow political processes to intervene in judicial decisions. This shameful and illegal act has its roots in the obsolete and conflictive process of selection, appointment, and confirmation of judges that is subject to political and electoral interests. It’s time to cut that problem at the root,” the Popular Democratic Party legislator said in a written statement.
Varela, who is also a lawyer, said that “given the importance of maintaining a judicial branch free of intervention and motivations beyond the law, it is necessary that the elected officials who have the power to appoint and confirm the judges be stripped of that power to ensure a selection process of members of the judiciary that responds only to their loyalty to law and justice and not to their political ties.”
To achieve this, the legislator said it is necessary to amend the Constitution to modify the powers bestowed on the governor and Senate to name and confirm, respectively, members of the judicial branch.
“The judicial reform that we propose goes beyond the process of selecting judges because it is not enough. We have to guarantee that the men and women who wear the judicial robe to impart justice have the knowledge, the mettle, and the professional and personal skills necessary to perform their responsibility with absolute integrity and efficiency,” he affirmed.
The representative stated that “for this reason, it is necessary to establish a system of recruitment and promotion in the judicial branch through such mechanisms as academic training, productivity metrics and, more importantly, that promotions respond to a strict competency criteria.”
The representative maintained that some of the criteria that could be included as requirements for promotions could be: a scoring system for effectiveness; the evaluation of promptness and efficiency in which cases are resolved; assistance; behavior; basing fundamental laws in their decisions; professional evaluations of lawyers and prosecutors; attendance in continuing education programs; exams to be eligible for promotions, and their seniority in the legal practice or judiciary.