It is a matter of deep concern, as a symptom of an upside-down justice system, that alleged criminals have succeeded in putting on trial the judge who is investigating them, while the courts have dragged their feet in bringing them to account for their own transgressions. It is hardly surprising, however, that this has happened to Judge Garzón, nor that it is in connection with the Gürtel case.
The judge who began investigating this corruption network very soon encountered the declared enmity of the political milieu of the persons under investigation: regional and municipal officials of the Popular Party (PP), though not excluding the national leadership itself. The man behind the network, Francisco Correa, had been found worthy of an invitation to the wedding of the daughter of the then-prime minister, José María Aznar, at the monastery in El Escorial, no doubt to equip him with the degree of respectability he required. Correa's business dealings, based on the irregular procurement of public contracts, prospered greatly in the regional government of Madrid, and later expanded to that of Valencia, where they found a more than friendly reception in the government headed by Francisco Camps. Garzón, like the judges who have succeeded him in the investigation of the Gürtel case, has thus earned the enmity of the PP, which has persistently attacked him, both within and without the proceedings.
Garzón is now appearing before the Second Section of the Supreme Court in one of three simultaneous trials; in this case, he is facing charges of misconduct, for having ordered phone taps on the conversations in prison between the two bosses of the Gürtel network, Francisco Correa and Pablo Crespo, and their lawyers. Garzón suspected the lawyers' possible connivance in putting in safekeeping more than 20 million euros hidden in Switzerland, as could be gathered from a conversation of Crespo's first lawyer, who is also facing charges.
Viewed from a legal standpoint, and within the presumption of rectitude normally attributed to a judge in the exercise of his function, it would seem that Garzón acted to prevent a possible crime, as was his duty. He did so at the request of the judicial branch of the police, and the anti-corruption prosecutor's office, with reasonable cause and covered by the law. It may be admitted that the counsel of one of the accused, and the heads of the network, attribute to Garzón the intention of thwarting their "defense strategies." But the Supreme Court cannot opt, among the possible explanations of the judge's conduct, for the most groundless, arbitrary and absurd of these: thus emboldening the accused, too, in their aim of proposing, in due time, the shelving of the case, and their own impunity.
If Garzón applied the law wrongly ? no more than did two other judges, who continued and approved the taps ? this mistake has been rectified. The right of the accused to a fair trial is assured. Must the Supreme Court also back them in their determination to have Garzón disqualified as a judge?