Nothing changes with the opening of the judicial year. The president of the governing body of the judges, Carlos Lesmes, shared blame equally between PSOE and PP for the anomaly of presiding over an institution that should have been renewed more than two and a half years ago and from there back to the routine. Neither Lesmes nor the members contemplate the option of resigning and thus forcing the renewal of the constitutional body, which has exceeded a thousand days in office and is now moving towards its third year of blockade.
The Government rejects the change of law that the PP demands to renew the Judicial Power: “The excuses are over”
Members of the conservative and progressive sectors consulted by elDiario.es affirm that their resignation en bloc is not on the table as a way to facilitate the renewal of the institution, subject to a situation of institutional paralysis. Nor does it consider abandoning its president, Carlos Lesmes, who did not allude in his speech at the Opening of the Judicial Year to this possibility and discharged all responsibility on the two main parties, from which he asked an exercise of “constitutional patriotism” and “generosity”.
The interim status of the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ) dates back to December 2018, when the five-year mandate enshrined in the Constitution expired. The blockade has been maintained since then due to the lack of political agreement for the renewal of its twenty members, which has to be agreed by a three-fifths majority of the members of the Cortes Generales. The Popular Party, which left Moncloa in June 2018 after Pedro Sánchez’s motion of censure, has resisted during all this time to lose its power in one of the key institutions of the State, which decides which judges are promoted to the higher positions in the judiciary, and has deployed a battery of changing conditions to do so.
The refusal of the members to present their resignation en bloc removes any possibility of forcing from within a process of renewal that is in deadlock. The Government rejected again this Tuesday the change of law that Pablo Casado’s party demands to agree on a new composition of the CGPJ. “The excuses are over,” the spokeswoman, Isabel Rodríguez, said at a press conference, hours after the leader of the conservatives insisted on this legal modification as a condition for renewal. It is a starting point that the Socialists reject, since they consider that it should be the Parliament – and not the judges – who have to appoint their governing body, as the current law has laid down for three decades.
The current governing body of the judges has eleven members elected at the proposal of the PP, seven from the PSOE, one from the IU and another from the PNV. At the forefront is Lesmes, who was a senior position in the governments of José María Aznar. Although during the current mandate the members of both sectors have confronted on key issues such as appointments to the judicial leadership – now paralyzed after a reform that came into force last spring – the rejection of the possibility of resigning as a way to force renewal it almost completely reconciles conservatives and progressives.
The two wings recall that, although its essential function of making appointments in the main courts is forbidden, the CGPJ does maintain its powers in other relevant matters such as the disciplinary regime, the provision of destinations and regulated promotions or the preparation of reports on projects legislative and affirm that these responsibilities cannot be neglected. “There is a lot of work to do and we have to keep doing it,” says a progressive vocal. “You cannot leave the institution abandoned,” says another member of the conservative sector.
A “very serious irresponsibility”
Conservatives, in any case, use thicker words to refer to the resignation proposal that have slipped through sectors of the judiciary. Among them, the progressive association Judges and Judges for Democracy, which on several occasions has asked the members to exercise “coherence and responsibility” that could facilitate the renewal of the institution.
“It is a wild proposal that is possibly useless. Nothing guarantees that a resignation will solve the situation. The inability to reach a political agreement cannot become a problem for the institution,” says a member elected at the time. PP proposal, which qualifies as “extremely serious irresponsibility” to leave “abandoned” the governing body of the judges. “It is nonsense, irresponsible,” says another conservative who insists that the resignation en bloc “is not on the table.”
The resignation is not in the spirit of the members of the minority progressive sector, where they are convinced that the conservatives would never follow them in this initiative and, with their resignation, they would lose the possibility of acting as a “counterweight” to their “outrages”.
“All this last year the conservatives have been very disloyal with the institution and, if they were left alone, they would do it with even greater impunity,” says a member of this sector, who insists that their withdrawal would also have no practical effect on the resolution of the blockade because they would be relieved by the alternates elected by Congress and the Senate in the 2013 renewal process. Other members of this sector consulted by elDiario.es coincide in this diagnosis and insist that their resignation is not a possibility that is on the table today.
The possibility that the members would resign to force the renewal was addressed without success in a plenary session held last December, in full anger with the parties that support the Government regarding the reform that ended up removing powers from the CGPJ when it is in office. Then, the progressive member Álvaro Cuesta proposed a resolution proposal for all its members to announce their “resignation” as of January 1, when they had already served two years with the expired mandate.
“This CGPJ (…) is not going to allow it to become a scapegoat or bargaining chip for the inability of those who are genuinely responsible for not renewing its composition on time. Whoever blocks the renewal of the General Council of the Judiciary he must lose all hope of obtaining political profit from his irresponsible behavior, “said the text presented by the member proposed by the PSOE. This initiative, however, was only endorsed by four other members of the progressive sector – Clara Martínez de Careaga, Rafael Mozo, Concepción Sáez and Pilar Sepúlveda – and it was never forged into a specific initiative.
Therefore, the twenty members of the governing body of the judges remain in their positions for another course, although, by law, they must limit themselves to performing those functions that are necessary to guarantee the functioning of the institution but that do not imply an “interference” in the powers of the incoming mandate.