President Danilo Medina may have control over the majority of justices on the National Council of the Magristracy (CNM), the government body in charge of choosing Supreme Court justices. This means that Medina essentially has control of the judiciary branch of government. The power play in the judiciary resulted from the recent decisions of the Political Committee of the ruling PLD. It is known that the PLD is basically divided in those who have remained loyal to former President Leonel Fernandez, who is president of the PLD, and to President Danilo Medina.
As reported in a political analysis in the Listin Diario, President Medina is ensured of at least four votes in the CNM eight-member chamber, and five if there is a tie because the President’s vote is worth two votes. New judges will be chosen this year. The President of the Republic is in charge with convening the CNM.
The analysis reveals that the Political Committee of the PLD chose Lucia Medina, sister to the President, to preside over the Senate, and Reinaldo Pared Perez would preside over the Chamber of Deputies. While Reinaldo Pared Perez is regarded as a loyal follower of former President Leonel Fernandez, his brothers are high-ranking officers in the Medina administration, including one brother who is the personal assistant to the President.
The fourth vote would be that of the prosecutor general, a person who Medina appointed and who could be influenced by the President. Other members of the CNM are the president of the Supreme Court of Justice (Mariano German, a former officer in the Leonel Fernandez government, and a Supreme Court justice chosen by the justices. The two remaining members are a senator and a deputy representing the largest minority party in Congress n in this case, the PRM.
It is expected that the CNM will be convened this year to name of the justices of the Superior Electoral Tribunal (TSE) whose members complete their term on 16 August 2016. Also a Supreme Court of Justice judge and another judge for the Constitutional Tribunal will need to be replaced – having reached the 75 year age limit for the positions. Justices that will retire are Victor Gomez Berges of the Constitutional Tribunal and Martha Olga Garcia Santamaria of the Supreme Court of Justice.
In 2017, the CNM will also need to replace four justices of the Constitutional Tribunal that had been appointed for six years. In addition to Victor Gomez Berges, the others are Leyda Pina, Ildefonso Reyes and Jottin Cury. In 2018, justices who were appointed in 2011 to seven year terms will need to be replaced.
Listin Diario analysis observes that all these changes will happen with a CNM under the control of the ruling political party, with strongest influence by President Danilo Medina surpassing his predecessor, former President Leonel Fernandez.