Chief justice to announce “emphatic” career decision

Dívar “very hurt” about expenses scandal but admits situation is untenable

Embattled Chief Justice Carlos Dívar leaving the special session of the CGPJ on Saturday.
Embattled Chief Justice Carlos Dívar leaving the special session of the CGPJ on Saturday.J.J.Guillen (EFE)

Embattled Chief Justice Carlos Dívar declined to use the word "resignation" during a tense meeting of the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ) legal watchdog on Saturday. But he did tell his 20 fellow panel members that in the coming days he will make a "categorical and emphatic" decision about his future.

Dívar, who is under fire for using public money to take extended weekend trips to Marbella and other luxury destinations across Spain, wasn't explicit as to when he would make the announcement, but all of his colleagues on the CGPJ, both liberals and conservatives, are convinced that he will step down on Thursday when the panel will again meet in a special session.

Dívar, who also serves as CGPJ president, asked the body for the "institutional responsibility" to stay on as Spain's top judicial officer over the next few days. He wants to take part in this week's Supreme Court bicentennial celebrations, which will see the heads of the Supreme Courts across Latin America arrive in Spain on Monday for three days of special events and conferences. Dívar was due to share the podium with King Juan Carlos, but the monarch bowed out of the celebration at the last minute.

Saturday's CGPJ meeting lasted three hours and began with an address by Dívar. With a serious tone and his familiar, almost perpetual smile gone, the chief justice said he was "very hurt" by the events and the negative public perception that his trips have caused of the judiciary. He did acknowledge, however, that the situation had become untenable.

The three major judiciary associations, 17 senior judges from Spain's largest cities, and the Socialist Party, which appointed him in 2008, have all called for his resignation.

But the CGPJ is divided on the issue. While some are calling for Dívar's head, others are asking that CGPJ member José Manuel Benítez Gómez step down for making the trips scandal public. It was Benítez who first filed a complaint with the Attorney General's Office against Dívar for charging the judiciary for six trips to Marbella's Puerto Banús — prosecutors later found no wrongdoing. Subsequent searches found that Dívar took at least 32 long weekend trips and charged close to 30,000 euros to the CGPJ.

Some CGPJ members asked Dívar to "reflect over a period" and "open his mind" to the situation. But it was only after some CGPJ members — including vice president Fernando de Rosa — asked Dívar point blank if he intended on resigning, that the chief justice explained that he would make an announcement in the coming days.

If he does step down, De Rosa would be temporarily appointed as CGPJ president while Justice Juan Antonio Xiol, chief justice of the Supreme Court's civil bench, would take Dívar's seat on the top court.

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