Although Ecuador’s Constitutional Court will be vacant for two months, many lawyers say the country’s justice system won’t suffer for it.
“This court has been historically inefficient and I don’t think waiting another 60 days for it to go back to work will make any difference,” says Ramiro García, president of the Pichincha Bar Association. “There are hundreds of important cases waiting to heard, some of them waiting for years. These judges have not done their job and we hope the new court will be interested in clearing the backlog.”
The nine judges on the court, Ecuador’s highest court, were dismissed two weeks ago by the Council of Citizen Participation and Social Control (Cpccs). Cpccs claimed that the judges had “serious conflicts of interests” and had allowed their opinions to be influenced by pressure from government officials. Most of the alleged irregularities occurred during the administration of former president Rafael Correa, Cpccs maintains. The majority of the judges were appointed during the Correa administration, which ended last year.
The current Cpccs was granted extraordinary powers over government officials and operations in a February national referendum and has fired dozens of officials since then for corruption and conflicts of interest.
Cpccs said Friday that it would appoint new judges within 45 days but that the court would not resume its full duties for 60 days.
Constitutional scholar and university professor Stalin Raza agrees with García that the vacancy will not affect the justice system. “The court has more than 10,000 cases waiting to be resolved,” he says. “Its inactivity is indefensible and violates the rights of the people.”
Former National Assemblyman Ramiro Sanchez, an ally of Correa, says the Cpccs decision to fire the court is political. “The council is acting beyond its authority and is motivated by its hatred of the former government. The actions of the council are scandalous.”