Cabinet pushes through reforms to bring down salaries at legal watchdog

Legislation will also attempt to depoliticize the way candidates are selected to serve

The Cabinet on Friday approved sweeping judicial reforms that will change the way candidates are selected to serve on the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ), the country’s legal watchdog.

Failing to win the support of the Socialists, Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón decided to push through the reform at the Cabinet level, which in turn will present it as a bill in Congress. The Socialists had not said they were against the proposed changes to the CGPJ structure but continued to postpone the meetings with the ruling Popular Party (PP) to discuss the measure following their objections to Gallardon’s plans to introduce court filing fees after the first of the year.

“We are going to wait to see the government’s bill,” said Socialist secretary general Elena Valenciano on Friday when asked if her party’s lawmakers planned on supporting it.

Under the reform, Gallardón plans on depoliticizing the CGPJ, which oversees the 5,100 judges across the country, by requiring that 12 of the 20 members, which will still be appointed by Congress, have solid judiciary experience. Three must be Supreme Court justices, three others with more than 25 years of experience, four with less than 25 years, and the remaining two can just be judges without any specified experience.

Twelve of the 20 members will have to have solid judiciary experience

As it is now, the country’s three top judicial associations – two connected to the major parties – had a say as to who served on the CGPJ with congressional approval.

The reform also proposes cutting salaries for all of its members apart from five, who will serve full time, including the president. Other members will be given per diems for assisting in council meetings and other official activities.

Also on Friday, the Cabinet announced that it will offer 1,600 positions in the public sector beginning in February, including 50 posts for judges and prosecutors.

Although no specific ministries or agencies were announced where these jobs will be offered, Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría said that they go to “maintain and strengthen” the quality of different institutions dedicated to the fight against fraud and Spain’s representation abroad.

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