The institutional crisis of the Council for Citizen Participation and Social Control (CPCCS) is taking its toll on the appointments of national authorities. One of them is the selection of the new president of the Council of the Judiciary (CJ), whose process has been paralyzed for a month.
On February 22, the president of the National Court of Justice (CNJ), Iván Saquicela, presented the shortlist for this position, after María del Carmen Maldonado resigned from the CJ due to disagreements with the Constitutional Court. Fausto Murillo, one of the members of the CJ, assumed the position on a temporary basis. But since the presentation of the shortlist, the CPCCS has not initiated the process.
According to the regulations for the appointment of the CJ members, approved by the CPCCS on February 17, 2021, once the shortlist is presented, a technical commission must be formed with seven delegates from each of the CPCCS councilors. This commission will verify the requirements and disqualifications of the candidates and will hear any challenges. It must also form a citizen oversight committee. Candidates must have a law degree and a minimum experience of 10 years.
Why has this process not advanced? This is a question that was not answered as of the closing of this edition. The CPCCS did not respond to the request for an interview with Hernán Ulloa, who assumed the presidency of the CPCCS in the midst of disputes and controversies with his predecessor, Sofía Almeida.
Ulloa's last pronouncement on this appointment was made the same day he received Saquicela's slate of three candidates. He said that he will consult with the legal department of the CPCCS "in order not to delegitimize the actions of the Transitory CPCCS".
According to a high judicial source, who preferred to keep his name under reserve, the appointment of the president of the Judiciary is crossed by an important context: the selection of anti-corruption judges. This competition will be in charge of the Judiciary. It is feared that by holding a contest without a president, this fundamental process for the judicial fight against organized crime and corruption will be affected, questioned and even invalidated.
The shortlist is made up of Darío Alberto Ordoñez Aray, current director of the CJ in Azuay; Mónica Paola Jarrín Aldaz, a judge currently practicing in Guayaquil; Gonzalo Andrés Valencia Arévalo, a lawyer in free professional practice. In interviews with PlanV, none of the three has received a notification from the CPCCS about the start of the process. Judge Jarrín says that there could be a breach of duty by the CPCCS because it has not complied with the deadlines.
In the meantime, the three members of the shortlist have their work programs ready for an institution affected by the backlog of cases, corruption and technological delays..
Darío Ordóñez, an ID militant, who promises judicial independence
Darío Alberto Ordoñez Aray is the first of the list. He was born in Cuenca and is 54 years old. But he lived in Quito for 15 years until he returned to his hometown to finish high school. He studied at the Law School of the State University of that city and graduated as a lawyer in 1995. He has been dedicated to his profession for a quarter of a century and is a specialist in constitutional law and administrative litigation.
He says that he was one of the first lawyers in the country to file a constitutional appeal (now known as a protective action). In 1997, this resource was established after the Constitution was reformed. The right was established, but not the procedure.
In spite of this, Ordóñez filed a constitutional protection action in favor of a mother who had not been able to enroll her daughters because the school principal refused to do so. The jurist recommended to the judge in the case to call for a hearing. In 1998, with the new Constitution, the procedure was established.
He recalls this anecdote to assure that he is a passionate defender of human rights. That is why he affirms that one of his lines of work will be to promote the cases of vulnerable sectors such as retirees, people with disabilities or low-income people.
This is what he has dedicated himself to during his free professional practice and that view, he says, will be useful for his management in the Judiciary, in case he is elected.
But Ordóñez also has a brief experience in public service and politics. Between 1996 and 2001, he worked in the IESS as a lawyer and as an enforcement judge in Cuenca and Azogues.
HE RECALLS THIS ANECDOTE TO ASSURE THAT HE IS A PASSIONATE DEFENDER OF HUMAN RIGHTS. FOR THIS REASON, HE AFFIRMS THAT ONE OF HIS LINES OF WORK WILL BE TO PROMOTE THAT THE CASES OF VULNERABLE SECTORS ARE RESOLVED AS A PRIORITY.
In 2002 he ran as deputy for the province of Azuay for the Democratic Left (ID) for the period 2003-2007, but did not win the seat. However, he replaced the three deputies of his province who were elected by his party when they went on vacations or trips.
Also in 2002 there were also sectional elections and in these Iván Saquicela, current president of the CNJ, won for councilman of Cuenca for the ID. Ordóñez and Saquicela have not only been political partners. Their friendship goes back to the classrooms of the State University and they have coincided in the exercise of their profession, the first as a lawyer and the second as a prosecutor. He was also president of the ID Professionals Front in Azuay.
After the Congress, Ordóñez returned to his legal practice until he again tried to reach the National Assembly (formerly Congress) for the ID in 2017. He also failed to win a seat. In 2016, he was president of the ID in Azuay.
In April 2021, he was appointed as director of the Judiciary Council of Azuay. When he arrived at that agency, Azuay was ranked 23rd out of 24 provinces in judicial productivity. Now, he assures, it is ranked number one.
He announces that he will take this formula to the Judiciary and it consists of 'not getting involved' in the judicial processes. He questions that the Judiciary has become in previous administrations a repressive and persecuting body against magistrates. " If I am appointed, there will be total respect for the judges".
Another of his objectives will be the implementation of the electronic file and he expects that in his administration 100% of the lawyers will use the electronic signature. Likewise, he will seek the modernization of the justice system, since he maintains that 90% of the technological equipment of the Judicial Function is obsolete.
How to achieve this if the current CJ says it does not have enough budget? Ordóñez says he will make efforts In 2002, he ran as deputy for the province of Azuay for the Democratic Left (ID) for the period 2003-2007, but did not win the seat. However, he replaced the three deputies of his province who were elected by his party when they went on vacations or trips.
Do you agree with the proposal of the head of state, Guillermo Lasso, to eliminate the CJ? In his opinion, the 2008 Constitution, he says, gave a superpower to the Judiciary and now it is necessary to rethink its role. He believes that it should only be a support body for the administration of justice.
Mónica Jarrín, a judge who will promote indigenous justice
Mónica Paola Jarrín Aldás is the second jurist on the shortlist. She was born in Quito and is 35 years old. But she grew up in Ambato and studied law at the Universidad Regional Autónoma de Los Andes. Her specialty is civil law.
Between 2010 and 2012, she worked at the Undersecretariat of Land and Agrarian Reform (formerly INDA), of the Ministry of Agriculture. She started in the legal department in Tungurahua and then was transferred to the District Directorate in Riobamba, which has jurisdiction in five provinces.
Her time in this department allowed her to work directly in rural areas for land titling and to get closer to the indigenous justice system. "I have seen how they organize justice according to their customs, which is totally different from ordinary justice, but they have guidelines to comply with due process."
She assures that this topic impacted her and is now part of one of the monographs of the doctorate in Civil Liability that she is studying in Argentina. That is why in her work plan, in case she is elected as president of the Judiciary, she proposes a rapprochement with indigenous justice. "Article 171 of the Constitution establishes that there must be cooperation, coordination and support between the ordinary justice system and the indigenous justice system," she says and believes that this is one of the pending issues for the organization.
She believes that the Judiciary should cover this issue, but not as an intrusion into this type of justice, but in training indigenous mediators or training judges so that ancestral customs are not lost.
Between 2012 and 2014, she was a judicial assistant and public defender. In 2014, she met Iván Saquicela at the Judicial Function School in Cuenca, where Jarrín spent five months. At that same time, Saquicela was studying to become a National Court judge and provincial judge at the same time.
Since 2015 she is judge of the Civil, Mercantile and Tenancy Unit of Guayaquil, a position she holds until today.
SHE BELIEVES THAT THE JUDICIARY SHOULD ADDRESS THIS ISSUE, BUT NOT AS AN INTERFERENCE IN THIS TYPE OF JUSTICE, BUT RATHER IN TRAINING INDIGENOUS MEDIATORS OR TRAINING JUDGES SO THAT ANCESTRAL CUSTOMS ARE NOT LOST.
If elected, she believes it is important to advance in the electronic file. "It would make the processes even more transparent", says the jurist because it would allow to follow the proceedings, the writs, as well as the drawing of lots for the hearings, which have given rise to acts of corruption.
On this issue, she considers that this is a way to fight corruption in justice, because it will be possible to observe the judicial proceedings and by having the entire file on the web, the processes will be unable to be manipulated. "It will no longer be possible for the file to be lost, for some folio to be removed or for the processes to be kept delayed until a hearing or a diligence is convenient".
She affirms that another problem is the high cost of the rents that the judicial units must pay and assures that those dependencies are the most deteriorated and without minimum services such as water or air conditioning.
She proposes that through Inmobiliar they look for real estate that can be donated to the Judicial Function or ceded through gratuitous bailment contracts, in order to allocate the leasing expenses to the maintenance of the units. "We do not have paper to print, we do not have printers, we do not have computers".
Jarrín questions that there are judicial units with multi-competent judges in all areas. "If we want to provide adequate service, we need the judge to be specialized according to the subject".
She believes that at least criminal matters should be separated from non-criminal matters so as not to overload the officials with work. Jarrín also proposes specialized judges in constitutional matters.
Jarrín has been a professor at Uniandes and at the Escuela de la Función Judicial. The latter, she says, should be a space not only for the judicial servant, but also for lawyers in free practice, public defenders, prosecutors and students. She proposes a specialization in all matters, including simulations of hearings before obtaining the accreditation of the specialty.
She is not in favor of eliminating the Judiciary Council, but believes that its functions should be delimited. "The Judiciary is a simple administrator that assists the Judicial Function”.
Gonzalo Valencia, a businessman and jurist who will seek the evaluation of judges
Gonzalo Andrés Valencia Arévalo is also from Cuenca and is 44 years old. He is the last of the three. He studied law at the Universidad del Azuay and obtained his degree in 2002. He has a specialization in procedural law and a master's degree in the same subject from the Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar, which is not yet listed on the website of the National Secretariat of Higher Education.
He also has a specialty in business law from the Universidad Técnica Particular de Loja and a degree as mediator from the Centro de Arbitraje y Mediación de las Cámaras de la Producción del Azuay (Arbitration and Mediation Center of the Chambers of Production of Azuay).
He started working in public service in 1996 when he was secretary general of the Government of Azuay. In 2006 he worked at Empresa Pública Vial del Azuay. Between 2010 and 2011 he was linked to the mortgage loan unit of IESS and then to BIESS.
Between 2004 and 2008 he was legal advisor in the Prefecture of Azuay, during the administration of Paúl Carrasco.
In 2009, Carrasco was denounced and the Public Prosecutor's Office opened an investigation for alleged embezzlement against him and five other people, including Valencia. The jurist explained that the facts occurred when he was in charge of the Prefecture's syndicate for eight days. During this time, the institution signed an agreement with the Agricultural Association of the Sinincay parish, in Cuenca, to open a road to a viewpoint.
On January 12, 2009, the Public Prosecutor's Office accused them because the Prefecture allegedly favored the Esplendí radio station with the opening of this road and for having used machinery and workers from the provincial council of Azuay to carry out works on this land. Of the six, three were called to trial and the other three, including Valencia and Carrasco, were provisionally dismissed. But in May 2010, the Second Specialized Criminal and Transit Court of the Provincial Court of Justice of Azuay revoked this decision and called the six defendants to trial.
IN ADDITION TO PROMOTING THE ELECTRONIC FILE, VALENCIA PROPOSES A REFORM TO THE NOTARIAL LAW SO THAT ITS REVENUES ARE ALLOCATED TO THE CJ TO MEET ITS NEEDS.
The officials reached an agreement with the prosecutor's office for a conditional suspension of the proceedings. This consisted of community work and an environmental awareness program to strengthen tourism in the parish for two months. In October 2011, the case was closed.
In 2012, Valencia was a temporary judge and coordinator at the Mining Control Regulation Agency. He also served as a co-judge of the Contentious Administrative Court in Cuenca, in 2014.
He has had a law firm for 20 years and has been president of the companies Rootours, Publigestión, ConsuAzuay, Proturaustro, Interlog and Consulaplic. He was also vice president at Plásticos Rival.
He was representative of lawyers in Azuay and vice president of the Bar Association between 2019 and 2020. He says that these functions allowed him to link with authorities and has promoted meetings with Saquicela. The Bar Association has made academic events in which Saquicela has participated as a speaker. But he has known the president of the CNJ since he was a prosecutor in Cuenca.
In October 2020, before the presidential elections, Valencia rejected the designation of the National Electoral Council (CNE) for the Provincial Directorate of the CNE in Azuay. He excused himself due to professional commitments. His appointment caused the rejection of councilors Luis Verdesoto and Enrique Pita.
Besides promoting the electronic file, Valencia says that one of his work axes will be to increase personnel in the Judicial Function. To this end, he proposes a reform to the Notary Law so that its income is destined to the CJ to meet its needs.
Likewise, Valencia promises to support judges, but he is aware that not all of them do an effective job. In this sense, he believes that an evaluation process is necessary.
On corruption, he proposes to immediately process the complaints that reach the agency and more training for judges.
For the jurist, the Judiciary Council is an administrative body that does not have to get involved with jurisdictional decisions. He believes that Lasso's proposal for a single body to handle administrative and jurisdictional matters is a good idea.