Understanding the composition of the National Council of the Magistracy and what is ahead

President Luis Abinader has pending convening the National Council of the Magistracy (CNM) to choose the judges for the higher courts in the Dominican Republic. The CNM is responsible for selecting the judges of the Constitutional Court (TC), the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ), Superior Electoral Court (TSE), and the Superior Administrative Court (TSA). President Abinader has insisted on the importance of electing judges known for independence of criteria and not political appointees.

During the next four years of his term, President Abinader needs to convene the CNM to replace up to 10 judges whose terms are expiring.

The CNM has pending the replacement or ratifying of a Supreme Court of Justice judge and replacing four judges at the Constitutional Court and five of the Superior Electoral Court.

The CNM needs to name the replacement for Supreme Court of Justice judge Francisco Ortega Polanco whose seven years in the position expired in August 2019. The CNM can also confirm the judge. Ortega Polanco was the judge who heard the first phase of the Odebrecht corruption trial. He closed his participation sentencing that corruption charges do not expire. He now needs to be replaced or ratified in the position.

The CNM also needs to name the new judges to replace Constitutional Court judges Hermógenes Acosta, Ana Isabel Bonilla, Wilson Gómez Ramírez and Katia Miguelina Jiménez, who on 28 December 2020 reach the nine years for which they were elected in 2011. None of the judges can repeat.

The five judges of the Superior Electoral Court (TSE) were elected for four years in July 2017. The CNM needs to meet to elect their replacements in July 2021. Román Jáquez Liranzo, presiding Superior Electoral Court judge resigned to take the position of president of the Central Electoral Board (JCE). Other judges that need to be replaced by July 2021 are Rafaelina Peralta, Santiago Sosa, Cristian Perdomo and Ramón Arístides Madera Arias.

The new CNM also needs to meet to name the five judges to the Constitutional Court whose terms end in 2023. The president of the Constitutional Court, Milton Ray Guevara who was elected for 12 years, is one of those who need to be replaced. His term expires in 2023 and cannot be extended.

The last time the CNM met was in April 2019. The then ruling PLD had the majority of votes. The CNM chose nine judges to the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court of Justice. But after the 2020 elections, the composition of the CNM has changed. While then-President Danilo Medina was calling the shots, now there is more plurality in the members of the CNM that will decide on the new judges for the higher courts. The former ruling PLD itself has split between two groups – one representing the former President Danilo Medina and the PLD group and the offspring People’s Force (FP), now under former PLD president, former President Leonel Fernandez’s leadership.

The Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM) now has named three voters — President Luis Abinader, the president of the Chamber of Deputies, Alfredo Pacheco and the president of the Senate, PRM ally, Eduardo Estrella of Dominicans for Change political party. Also, President Abinader named Attorney General Miriam Germán, a highly-respected judicial career. The Attorney General has a seat in the CNM.

The PRM also gets the tie-breaking vote. The ruling of the CNM establishes that the National Council of the Magistracy’s decisions are valid with the favorable vote of at least five (5) of its members present at the meeting. In case of a tie, the qualified vote of the President will decide.

The PLD/Danilo Medina group is naming to the CNM the deputy of the second majority in the Chamber of Deputies. Victor Fadul, son of former Medina administration Minister of Interior & Police Ramón (Monchi) Fadul, was named to this position. This political party also will have the vote of Luis Henry Molina, a political appointee and former member of the PLD who resigned to be named president of the Supreme Court of Justice. At the time of his appointment to the Supreme Court, Molina was the president of the Dominican Telecommunications Institute (Indotel). The Supreme Court of Justice named judge Nancy Salcedo Fernández to represent the Supreme Court of Justice.

The FP/Leonel Fernández group is naming senator Bautista Rojas Gómez to the CNM, in representation of the second majority of the Senate.

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27 November 2020