The Supreme Court has confirmed a penalty of 1,500 euros to a substitute judge for confronting a national policeman and demanding that he refer to him as “honor.” The contentious judges have ratified the fine imposed by the General Council of the Judiciary for a serious lack of disregard and abuse of authority due to this incident that occurred in the center of Valencia in 2018, when he was acting as a substitute judge in Catalonia. The sanctioned, who since then has not returned to appear as a substitute judge after more than a decade doing so, has taken his case before the Constitutional Court.
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The events that have led to this sanction, as elDiario.es has learned, occurred shortly before midnight in the center of Valencia in June 2018. The sanctioned person was riding a motorcycle on a street near the Central Market of the capital of Turia when he he met with a police checkpoint and a deputy inspector from the Provincial Citizen Security Brigade stopped him. The substitute judge, according to the file, acted “ignoring the indications of the acting force”, going in the opposite direction on a street and finally falling to the ground with the motorcycle. Deputy inspector and substitute judge, according to the Supreme Court, “recognized each other” and then the clash began.
The substitute judge informed him that he was assigned to a court in Tarragona and that he should be “careful.” He referred to a previous meeting when he assured: “I am going to request the arrest that you made me.” Finally, he reflects the Supreme Court in his sentence, he warned him that he was the judge and that he answered him by specifying “Yes, Your Honor.” The two knew each other before, as the deputy inspector explained that he recognized him as “the one he had to give an account to almost two years before, on the occasion of a breathalyzer test.”
The case of this substitute judge did not lead directly to a sanction. A first file opened that same year was closed shortly thereafter because it was no longer one of the candidates to be a substitute judge the following year. He reappeared and obtained a destination in Catalonia in May 2019 and a few weeks after taking office a new disciplinary proceeding was started, which has now ended in sanction. That was one of the allegations of the substitute judge’s appeal that the Supreme Court has just rejected: the duplication of processes, as well as the statute of limitations.
The then substitute judge alleged without success before the third chamber of the Supreme Court that it was not a performance in his functions as judge “but as a citizen, with the right to criticism, and even to show his anger in the face of an attitude of previous mockery.” In his appeal, the sanctioned substitute judge alleges: “The judge is first of all a person, not devoid of ius civitatis. With your feelings and dignity. Heroic behavior cannot be preached, nor can he be prohibited from criticizing on the spot, without any publicity, the performance of another police officer. ”
The contentious chamber of the Supreme Court, with its president César Tolosa as rapporteur, rejects his appeal, confirms the sanction of 1,500 euros and recalls that the facts that have resulted in the sanction, he says, “have been perfectly accredited.” The judges rely on the testimony of the sub-inspector who spoke with him, another police officer, and also on the fact that one of them recorded part of the encounter with a mobile phone, and his transcript. For this reason, the Supreme Court affirms, there is evidence that he tried “to evade police control” and that he addressed the deputy inspector with “threatening and intimidating phrases.” The Supreme Court adds in its ruling that the then substitute judge “carried out the disrespectful and intimidating behavior, inappropriate for his status as judge, that the contested resolution describes.” He incurred, therefore, in a serious lack of inconsideration and abuse of authority.
Controversy in the CGPJ
The magistrates and substitute and substitute judges do not have to have passed the opposition and the Organic Law of the Judicial Power grants preference to those who have performed judicial functions or as lawyers of the Administration of Justice, with what the norm defines as “demonstrated aptitude or practiced legal or teaching professions, provided that these circumstances are not distorted by others that involve their lack of suitability “. In this case, according to sources in the case, the sanctioned person had been serving as a substitute judge in different parts of Catalonia for more than a decade.
The sanction was first imposed by the Disciplinary Commission in October 2019 and ratified by the plenary session of the judges’ governing body in the first quarter of the following year. Those decisions were made unanimously by both bodies but the case had already passed through the hands of the Council and leaving some controversy behind. The Permanent Commission did not agree to decide whether to allow him to be a substitute judge again after the opening of the first file.
The first sanctioning file was opened in 2018 but was shelved when he was left out of the lists to be a substitute judge. Shortly after, already in 2019, he appeared again and the Permanent Council approved his appointment but with two members, Pilar Sepúlveda and José María Macías, voting against, understanding that the existence of the first file did not make him a good candidate for to return to exercise the candidacy in Catalonia.
Sources in the case confirm that this former substitute judge, ENM, has already taken his case before the Constitutional Court without, for the time being, the court of guarantees having decided whether or not to admit his appeal. They understand that he has been sanctioned for something that has nothing to do with his work as a substitute judge but with a matter related to his private life and that various irregularities have also been committed during the process: he complains about the opening of a second file later from the file of the first, a duplication of processes that also would have led to the prescription of the possible infringement.
In his appeal now rejected by the Supreme Court, the sanctioned denounced that the fine of 1,500 euros seemed to him a disproportionate amount. The judges explain their sentence that it is a proportionate sanction and explain that it could have reached up to 6,000 euros. They also show, explains the Supreme Court, the “seriousness of the conduct” and the magistrates add that “the legislator is not alien to the extra-professional activity of the judge or outside the procedural hearings, trials or public hearing in which the itself, but extends further, sanctioning conduct that it considers inappropriate for those who professionally dedicate themselves to the task of dispensing justice independently using the powers conferred by the Constitution. ”