“The expression of opinions, comments and reactions from judges on the networks can seriously affect the appearance of independence and impartiality.” CGPJ Ethics Commission
I do not know if you know that two types of judges have a profile on social networks: some who appear in the open and others who claim to be judges, to get the auctoritas and to have more followers, but they ambush in something they call pseudonym, a term that by reference to the creator gives prestige, and that they would not like us to call “aliases”, which is semantically more appropriate but has another connotation for them.
The fundamental issue is that these masked judges – using aliases or pseudonyms, as they may see – sometimes pronounce themselves in dubiously acceptable terms, adopt political positions, get involved with politicians or journalists who act with their real identity on the networks without, finally, they can know who are those judges who do not support them in case they are called to decide on them at some point. The paradigmatic case has been that of judge Carlos Antonio Vegas, head of the Social Court 1 of Barcelona, who in the @EstadoCharnego account, under the name of Randy Watson, has posted more than 130,000 tweets in recent years, most of them against Catalan independentists and people who have manifested close to them. The point is that it is not possible to be as anonymous as it is intended and that, for different reasons that I will explain later, in the long run the identity of most of the judges who act like this will end up being known. Vegas’s identity was discovered a long time ago and this has helped Pilar Rahola to get her recusal at the TSJC. She was lucky because when she started her affair with La Vanguardia for her dismissal – which ended in a friendly agreement after this car – it was known who Carlos Antonio Vegas was, because the journalists had revealed his identity and, only for that fact , has managed to remove him from his lawsuit. What would have happened if the identity had not been revealed? That a judge whose appearance of impartiality does not exist –according to five TSJC magistrates– would have seen his case.
Those politicians or journalists who have been criticized by profiles that claim to be judges, those who have even suffered attempts to undermine their professional credibility by them or their environment, how do they know in the next matter that concerns them that it is not one of those? judges “estranged” those who judge him? Because there is manifest enmity in many of the cases and this is recognized by the Social Chamber of the Superior Court for the first time. “All of the above taking into account the reiteration over time, the content and the tone of the tweets written by the challenged magistrate (which go beyond mere criticism or discrepancy) with clear pejorative connotations, towards the Catalan independence movement or ideology and towards Mrs. Rahola in particular, as a significant person of said movement both for her political career and for her career as a talk show or journalist (sic), she can sow objectively justified doubts about the impartiality of the magistrate “, says the resolution that definitively separates him of the lawsuit. Rahola has been lucky because she knew who she was, but what about those of whom we still do not know the identity or only a few know it and it has not been made public?
The case of Carlos Antonio Vegas Ronda is paradigmatic for more things. In one of his crazy days, on November 24, he decided that it was a good idea to suggest to his colleagues to prevaricate en masse and wrote the following tweet: “Perhaps it is time for the judges to reject any request from the Generalitat de Catalunya, whether or not they are right ”. Followed by a few others just as unpresentable. The Minister of Justice of the Generalitat, Ciuró, sent a letter to the president of the CGPJ to convey her concern about the activity and content of these tweets that affect the Government and, after a couple of weeks in the drawer, Lesmes transferred it to the Permanent Commission, which in turn decided to send it to the promoter of the Disciplinary Action in case Magistrate Carlos Antonio Vegas has incurred in disciplinary matters.
It is the first time that some type of action has been taken in the face of the fact that some judges, claiming themselves as such, criticize members of other powers or openly confront politicians or journalists, reinforced by their status as such and at the same time protected by anonymity. They speak in their defense of freedom of expression, that they have it, but they avoid accepting that they do not want to assume it with the responsibilities that it entails. Otherwise, they would do it with their own name as many other magistrates do every day on social networks. They want everything: the impunity of anonymity, the recognition of their judicial status – without that almost no one would follow them, least of all the cohort of balls that usually haunt them -, the power to play around as if they were anonymous and the power to judge their harassed in networks when the time comes. Something that they deny to others. If a journalist with a pseudonym steps on any line of the law, they can reveal his identity. Furthermore, no one writes under a pseudonym in newspapers or in books without the heads of the companies knowing their real identity and being forced to provide it after a court injunction. Many of these judges claim that only they should be able to play with all the cards and keep the deck.
It is not something shared by many of his colleagues – some of whom for consistency left anonymity a long time ago – or by ethical guidelines, although the latter has led to the most unusual situations. Shortly before the festivities, the CGPJ Ethics Commission convened a course for judges on ethics and networks in which a magistrate who works in networks such as Judge the Zipper participated. Well, in the financial report that was presented to the Permanent for approval, all his colleagues appeared perfectly identified except him and a budget was granted for someone whose real identity, according to the document, is still unknown. The truth is that the CGPJ accepted the game of maintaining the anonymity of one of its magistrates in an institutional activity – in which he participated by videoconference – giving a letter of nature to this type of attitudes about which there are too many ethical doubts and, as we have seen today, even legal.
Many of the magistrates who continue to ambush on Twitter say that we harass them, that we persecute them, that they suffer attacks against their freedom of expression. I am afraid to disappoint you. It is not about personal struggles. In fact, I know the identity of most of them – they think they are very clever, but not leaving a fingerprint is so difficult that with a little expertise they are discovered and, if not, there are always colleagues of theirs willing to reveal their names in petit committee– and I’m not going to publish it. At least if I do not see myself in the obligation of having to recuse them one day, because some of them have shown their very clear animosity towards me. The point here is that there is no race of super men and women who in a democracy can have all the rights, all the freedoms and no responsibility. That there are magistrates who would not tolerate that a @ministrocanalla or @engaged deputy or a @vocaljusticiero pouring out specific criticisms, disqualifications, ridicules or disclosing information that they know, but who believe they can do it; who demand and applaud that Minister Belarra be made an institutional reproach for a tweet, but who claim that theirs can freely criticize or vex Belarra or the morning star or praise and praise Santiago Abascal, to give examples, without anything happening.
The CGPJ has to put order in this matter. It is time for it to be clear that whoever claims to be a magistrate in networks must prove that they are, with their name, and that they will not tolerate the appropriation of their status by those who do not prove that they are. The opposite is not only unethical but also violates the fundamental rights of citizens, such as the right to an impartial judge and to remove those who are not from the process.
Nobody steals anything from you, ladies and gentlemen, or silences you. And even less those of us who go bare-faced and with the decency to subscribe with a name and surname what comes out of our pen or our mouths. A matter of courage and coherence.