The troubling politicization of Spain’s judiciary

May 31, 2010

The trial of Baltasar Garzón has revealed that the Spanish courts have become politicized to a worrisome extent, Sinikka Tarvainen writes in the Earth Times:

For more than a decade, judges have increasingly come under the influence of politicians, many Spanish analysts say, concerned that such a situation is undermining the foundations of democracy itself. Never since the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975 had “the discredit (of the judiciary) reached such a critical point” as now, the daily El Pais wrote. […] “The trial of Garzon … is a plan by the (political) right” in Spain to prevent him from revealing who profited from Francoism, Argentine lawyer David Baigun said, while others claimed that the PP wanted to prevent Garzon from investigating corruption in its ranks. […] Top judges are labeled as “progressive” or “conservative,” depending on whether they are perceived as being close to Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero’s Socialists or the PP.  The politicization of the judiciary is attributed partly to the accumulation of political scandals in courts in the final years of prime minister Felipe Gonzalez’ 1982-96 Socialist government. Even more importantly, a 1985 reform tasked parliament with appointing the 12 members of the CGPJ, who had previously been chosen by fellow judges. The Socialists and conservatives negotiate the composition of the CGPJ which, in its turn, appoints all or some members of the Supreme Court, the National Court and regional courts. Judges’ career progress depends largely on whether they belong to politically coloured judges’ associations, the members of which include about half of Spain’s judges.

More here.