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5 de Abril del 2022
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Lectura: 11 minutos
5 de Abril del 2022
Fermín Vaca Santacruz
The three new constitutional judges: who is who?
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Photo: Asamblea Nacional

 

They come from the university environment and have something in common: their closeness to the Faculty of Jurisprudence of the Universidad de Las Américas, where the former Minister of Government, Alexandra Vela, was dean.

Two of the three new constitutional judges were included in the short list that the Executive Function presented to the Qualifying Commission that carried out the selection process. The third judge, on the other hand, came from the names approved by the Legislative Function.

In addition to being lawyers and having dedicated themselves, above all, to university teaching, the three new judges have in common having been professors at the Universidad de Las Américas, of whose Law School the former Minister of Government, Alexandra Vela, was dean.

Although the president of the Qualifying Commission, Vanesa Aguirre, said that the Commission sought that the new judges came from all possible sectors, such as the judicial career itself, the free practice and academia, in the end it happened that the three new judges came mainly from private universities in Quito.

Aguirre also said that, in principle, it is not a mistake to make recommendations on people who know each other closely, although she pointed out that at no time it was found that the Minister of Government, Alexandra Vela, could have had direct influence in the formation of the shortlist of the Executive or in the names approved by the National Assembly, which finally resulted in the three new judges.

In the shortlists there was practically no presence of any public university, and, above all, it is noteworthy that the three judges have a long working relationship with the Universidad de Las Américas, a private center in Quito.

But although it can be said that all three have focused their careers on higher education, they have also held some public positions and have been related to other areas and environments.

This is an in-depth look at the three new constitutional judges and their backgrounds.

 

Alejandra Cárdenas, full-time professor

Fully dedicated to teaching, the longest period of work recorded in her curriculum vitae is more than ten years as a professor at the Universidad de Las Américas, precisely in the faculty of which former Minister Vela was dean. She holds a doctorate in Jurisprudence from the Universidad Central del Ecuador and has several specializations, especially in human rights. She was born in Quito in 1975. In her curriculum vitae she records her fluency in English and proficiency in judicial French.

The first work that appears in her portfolio, presented to the Qualifying Commission and consisting of 51 pages, is that she was a lawyer at the Ombudsman's Office between 2006 and 2011. From 2011 to date she was dedicated to teaching, mainly at UDLA, where she taught subjects related to the Inter-American Human Rights System, at IAEN and at the Universidad Católica Santiago de Guayaquil. At IAEN she was dean for one year, in an open appointment position. Cardenas has had her RUC open since 2006. In her portfolio, there are some diplomas signed by former Minister Vela in her capacity as dean of the Faculty of Jurisprudence.

CÁRDENAS HAS HAD HER RUC OPEN SINCE 2006. IN HER FOLDER, THERE ARE SOME DIPLOMAS SIGNED BY THE FORMER MINISTER VELA IN HER CAPACITY AS DEAN OF THE FACULTY OF JURISPRUDENCE.

In addition, she has been a consultant for different institutions, such as the National Assembly, the Esquel Foundation, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Semplades, among others.

During her time at the Ombudsman's Office, she was in charge of research and advocacy on public policies, as well as issues related to human mobility. One of her publications, precisely, analyzes the Cuban migratory wave in Quito.

Richard Ortiz, professor of Constitutional Law at UDLA and electoral expert 

He headed the Government's shortlist and is considered to be part of the entourage of the former Minister of Government and former Dean of Law of the University, Alexandra Vela. But although his facet as a professor is widely recognized, Ortiz has held several positions in the Electoral Function, so he is considered an expert in the matter. He was an official of both the Electoral and the Legislative Function during the height of the Correa government.

At UDLA he taught subjects such as State Theory and Constitutional Law. He obtained his degree in 1992, although he registered it in 2002. For seven years and seven months he has taught legal subjects at UDLA. He was also a professor for two years at Universidad San Francisco and for a little over a year at Universidad Internacional. The curriculum vitae he presented is really voluminous, since the documentation submitted exceeded 218 pages.

He is a native of Quito born in 1968, with a doctorate in Political Science obtained in Germany. and began his teaching career in 1992, as a teaching assistant at the Catholic University. There he obtained his law degree and doctorate in jurisprudence.  But since 2014 he has been a professor of Constitutional Law and General Theory of the State at the Universidad de Las Américas. As he highlights, he has an advanced fluency in German (he has published articles in that language) and a medium fluency in English. As in the previous case, several of the diplomas in his portfolio bear the signature of former Minister Alexandra Vela, then Dean of Law.

Two UDLA professors gave certificates of honorability: the current dean, Álvaro Galindo Cardona, and the director of the Faculty, Nicolás Burneo, both dated November 2021. Galindo succeeded Vela when she assumed the Ministry of Government. 


The Constitutional Court issues key rulings on controversial cases.  Photo: Luis Argüello. PlanV

TWO UDLA PROFESSORS GAVE CERTIFICATES OF HONORABILITY: THE CURRENT DEAN, ÁLVARO GALINDO CARDONA, AND THE FACULTY DIRECTOR, NICOLÁS BURNEO, BOTH IN NOVEMBER 2021. GALINDO SUCCEEDED VELA WHEN SHE ASSUMED THE MINISTRY OF GOVERNMENT.

One of his first public positions places him in the Constituent Assembly of Montecristi, in 2008, as advisor to the Correa's constituent Mauro Andino, who awarded him a commendable certificate for his services. Between 2008 and 2013 he was in the Electoral Function, first as general secretary of the Contentious Electoral Tribunal and then as director in the Institute of Democracy maintained by the National Electoral Council. At that time, two people close to former President Rafael Correa, such as Omar Simon Campaña and Domingo Paredes, presided over this State Function. During his tenure as secretary of the Contentious Court, former judge Tania Arias was president of the entity.

He was also in the Justice Commission of the Assembly as advisor and secretary rapporteur on two occasions. From his time in the Assembly as a civil servant, Ortiz has several certificates signed by former presidents of the Legislative Power, such as Fernando Cordero or Gabriela Rivadeneira.

Ortiz has focused on several areas of study, among which stand out government and electoral systems, as well as political law, parliamentary law and legislative technique. In his folder there is a certificate from the Comptroller General of the State that indicates the existence of a civil liability of his, but the magistrate attached a lawsuit filed against the Comptroller in March 2021 related to the case, which is still being processed in the contentious-administrative justice. 

Jhoel Escudero, professor of UDLA and Universidad Andina

But the most voluminous folder of the three judges is undoubtedly held by Jhoel Marlin Escudero, another of the judges who came to the Court after being part of the Executive Function's shortlist. To a letter in which he announced that he is running, above all, as a university professor, Escudero attached at least 480 pages. Born in Guaranda in 1980, he has developed his working life in Quito.

A lawyer since 2007, he studied at the Universidad Central del Ecuador and has been a professor and vice-rector of IAEN, the latter being his most important academic position. He became a member of the Ecuadorian Bar Association in December 2008.

He holds a PhD in law from Universidad Andina in Quito and was a law professor at Universidad de Las Américas, as well as at Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar for five and ten years respectively.

From his time at UDLA, Escudero highlighted his contribution to the development of the new curriculum in the law program. He was a professor there between 2011 and 2018, dedicating himself to IAEN from 2019.

Reliable sources described him as a lawyer with connections with former Minister Vela, but also with lawyers such as Ramiro Ávila and Agustín Grijalva, former constitutional judges who left after the renovation and one of whose positions he holds.

ONE OF THE CERTIFICATES HE PRESENTED IN HIS PORTFOLIO IS SIGNED BY THE CURRENT RECTOR OF THE ANDEAN UNIVERSITY, CÉSAR MONTAÑO, WHO EMPHASIZES THAT HE HAS KNOWN HIM SINCE 2008 AND HIGHLIGHTS HIS ACADEMIC ABILITIES.

One of the certificates that he presented in his folder is signed by the current rector of the Universidad Andina, César Montaño, who emphasizes that he has known him since 2008 and highlights his academic abilities. A significant amount of the documentation presented by the new judge is related to the Andean University, and he made a record of the scholarships and other incentives he received from that institution, in addition to the publications of books and articles sponsored by that graduate school. Another rector who extended a recommendation is Fernando Lopez Parra, from IAEN.

From his several years at the Constitutional Court, he was credited with two years as advisor to former judge Roberto Brunis. But he was in three occasions as an official of the Court: the first in 2009 as constitutional assistant, he was constitutional advisor between 2009 and 2012 and academic coodinator between 2013 and 2014.

The new judge's experience in the public sector is scarce. He was hired by the Ministry of Justice as a consultant, as well as by the Ombudsman's Office.

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