Argentinean lawmakers approve controversial judicial reform bills
Thousands protest outside Congress over plan to “democratize” the judiciary
Following 20 hours of debate, which included shouts and threats among lawmakers, Argentina’s Chamber of Deputies approved three of the six controversial judicial reform bills that President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner claims will “democratize” the country’s judiciary.
The proposed restructuring of Argentina’s judicial branch is being branded by the opposition as an infringement by the Fernández de Kirchner government on the “judiciary’s independence.” A majority of opposition lawmakers boycotted Thursday’s session.
Deputies voted 126 to 10 to approve one measure that sets a six-month time limit on court injunctions against the state in cases that don’t affect the welfare of citizens. The second bill, passed 126 to eight, will create third-tier cassation courts that will deal with administrative complaints as well as civil and trade issues. This way, those plaintiffs or defendants who lose their cases on the first try can get a review from these new courts, without having to appeal directly to the Supreme Court, which sees some 20,000 cases annually.
Before the opposition walked out, the chamber narrowly approved a third bill earlier in the day that calls for the direct election of some members of Argentina’s legal watchdog, the Magistrates Council. That measure was passed in a 130-to-123 vote after 17 hours of debate that began the previous evening.
Fernández de Kirchner’s Cabinet secretary Juan Manuel Abal Medina said that the government’s reforms “will bring justice closer to the people.”
Outside Congress in Buenos Aires, scores of protestors, including labor leaders and judicial employees held a noisy demonstration against the reforms.
Ricardo Gil, a former judge who sentenced members of the past military dictatorship to jail sentences after a high-profile 1985 trial and who is now a deputy for the UCR Radical Party, called the reforms “the biggest step backward for the judiciary since democracy was restored in 1983.