The judges denounced, this Saturday, the lack of political will to resolve the justice crisis, easily the target of demagoguery and populism, and asked the Minister of Justice, Catarina Sarmento e Castro, to regulate the drawing of judges for cases, whose absence is creating a procedural chicane.
The Associação Sindical dos Juízes Portugueses (ASJP) also pointed the finger at the performance of the Superior Council of the Judiciary in the revolving doors that allow entrances and exits of the judiciary for other functions, putting into question, sometimes, the credibility of the class
Addressing the President of the Republic and the Minister of Justice, during the closing of the XII congress of judges, the President of the Union Association of Portuguese Judges, Manuel Ramos Soares, regretted that nothing is being done for the reform of justice.
He recalled that the class, as well as other agents of justice, responded to the call for responses, but that they faced blockade and lack of continuity after being handed over to political power.
“Everyone is capable of saying that justice is in crisis, but no one has yet identified the nature of this crisis.. Is it efficiency? Of independence? Integrity? Of accountability? Without an answer to this question, which crisis – corrective measures whose necessity is imposed as evident are not projected. Second, because political parties are more prone to controversy than consensus. Because justice is an easy target for demagoguery and populism, which make you lose focus and direction”, said the ASJP leader.
And he added immediately afterwards: “Governments, majorities and oppositions have a horizon of interest that does not go beyond the period of the legislature and more easily commit themselves to measures that give immediate support than to others whose benefits are only achieved later” .
“Unacceptable”, was how the president of the ASJP described the permission of dilatory steps that mainly media processes face.
“In complex economic and financial criminality, the reality that can be seen when people with power are involved in politics, banking, business, sports, justice, is that the processes have no end (indirectly alluding to the Sócrates case). There are cases that are unlikely to reach a final decision before the statute of limitations”, underlined Manuel Ramos Soares.
The judges, therefore, ask for the legal definition of a kind of brake that sends to the end of the process the decision of matters that the magistrates do not consider priority and important for the discovery of the truth, thus not compromising the progress of the processes.
“It is now necessary to create a working group to carry out a retrospective analysis of completed processes, locating the moments and causes of blockages and proposing solutions to eliminate them, within the principles of the system and with respect for constitutional guarantees. We cannot continue to look at this as if it were nothing, seeming to be complicit in an inefficiency that objectively benefits the impunity of powerful people whose door is knocked by the rule of law.”he stated.
Manuel Ramos Soares recalled some measures long suggested by magistrates to the government and the Superior Councils, such as “periodic autonomous audits of the quality of the response of the courts, the action of the inspection and disciplinary systems, the quality of the work of the presidents of the courts and the system of automatic process distribution”.
And yet the “creation of human rights observatories, together with the councils, but with autonomy, in the most sensitive areas of family and minors law, asylum, execution of sentences and administrative and fiscal; public disclosure of information on board meetings and on their disciplinary and inspection activity; and many others, along the same line of action, dust-free, non-corporate and open to change”.
Administrative and tax justice remains without measures
The judges regretted seeing nothing on the ground to solve certain problems, “delayed cases in the administrative and tax courts, from promise to promise, from postponement to postponement, from one working group to another, there is no solution in sight; We are waiting for the organic law and the means for the Superior Council of Administrative and Tax Courts, advisory services, more human resources, more responsiveness in the central administrative courts and procedural simplification in low-value or mass disputes”.
In addition to these measures, the Minister of Justice asked the regulation of the way in which the draw for choosing the judges for the cases should be carried out. “Now the trend is to open up to ask for the removal of the judge for violating the distribution rules, based on the fact that such law is not being applied. Is it normal, legitimate, acceptable, that a single lawyer, in a single appellate court, in 9 months, raises 23 incidents of refusal of judges, 2, 3 and 4 times in the same cases and that there is no way to stop this, despite successive decisions dismissing their requests? Mrs. Minister, that law must be regulated immediately, not only because what is there seems right to us, but to put an end to these situations of true procedural chicanery”.
There was also an appeal to resolve the problem of judicial officials who, say the judges, “ask for something fair and reasonable” putting an end to “the serious disturbance caused in the functioning of the courts by a climate of generalized tension, discouragement and demotivation of the professional body that gives support to the administration of justice and whose stoppages and strikes postpone thousands of steps and introduce new factors of inefficiency”. These words were applauded by the judges present in the room.
Manuel Ramos Soares accused the Superior Council of the Judiciary, which manages the discipline of judges, of not knowing how to take the blame for not having acted in a timely manner when cases such as the one at issue in Operation LEX were known.
“Justice failed citizens when it did not timely detect acts of a corrupt nature within the justice system and when it was not able to publicly assume this failure and, above all, to reinforce the existing preventive mechanisms”, he reinforced.
The judges asked for even more discretion to put an end to revolving doors and the lack of credibility and trust they bring, advocating greater discretion in granting authorizations to judges who leave the judiciary for other areas.