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Harming the institution

The ‘Dívar case’ presents an unprecedented crisis for the General Council of the Judiciary

The situation of the president of the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ) and of the Supreme Court, Carlos Dívar, is a shambles. He has been unable to dispel the doubts that exist about the official reasons for his long and frequent weekend trips, nor has he been able to lift suspicions that the expenses he charged to the public purse were essentially of a personal nature. In addition, he has caused an unprecedented rift at the heart of the Council, embroiling the workings of the state in his defense, from the Attorney General’s Office (which opened and rapidly closed an inquiry into the case) to the Supreme Court, which in a plenary session on Wednesday rejected the admission of a suit against him. Not to mention the ruling Popular Party, which has finally heeded calls for Dívar to appear before Congress, with the date of his appearance yet to be set. Too much effort has been spent and too much tension caused in resisting the evidence that the CGPJ head has spent public money in a way that he cannot justify, while at the same time billing the Interior Ministry for his security detachment.

Dívar needs to understand that his attitude is causing damage, above all, to the institution he represents. Legally, the Council could demand his resignation, alleging incompetence or a serious failure to fulfill the duties of his office. But the division within the CGPJ lends weight to more than reasonable suspicions that the president is not the only member of the Council who has taken the liberty of misusing public funds, and has gone on extended weekend jaunts without feeling the need to justify them.

Once the Supreme Court had rejected the complaint against their chief justice, five members of the Council tried to bring forward the holding of a new plenary session to discuss the situation. Given the corporatist nature of the institution and the petty power-plays in its inner workings, it is difficult for the Council to reach closure on this. However, all the members of the CGPJ who have contributed to the discrediting of the institution should be interested in what the public thinks. The deluge of media revelations relating to the case has besmirched the reputation of an organization with constitutional status, and in passing has reinforced the lack of prestige in which judges are held, the body of civil servants that the public least trusts, according to figures from the latest Center for Sociological Studies survey.

Political responsibility

Dívar and the members of the Council need to take stock of things and do what is necessary to restore the institution’s reputation. The president’s appointment was the result of a pact between the then-Socialist government and the main opposition Popular Party, under which they agreed the current CGPJ members, who in turn formally named Dívar to lead the institution, even though that decision was the prerogative of the prime minister at the time, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, and the then-leader of the opposition Mariano Rajoy. That is why the government and the Socialists, now in opposition, without lacking respect for the principle of the separation of powers, should take this as a reflection on them amidst an unparalleled crisis at an institution that should fulfill a basic role in the workings of the state.

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