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New president of the judges’ union asks to study that they do not increase their retirement age

He promised to give the Association of Magistrates of Uruguay (AMU) a “more union” imprint and after a defeat by 13 votes in the first elections in which he ran (2020), this weekend he won by three and was elected president. of the association. Insolvency judge Leonardo Méndez will take office at the beginning of September and has the judicial career and the budget as the urgent issues to be addressed.

In addition, he wants to “refresh the participation” of the judges in the guild, which for now he sees off. Although it has several objectives, it especially highlighted the budget crisis of the Judiciary, which has not received increases for 10 years. “More and more functions are being carried out for the Judiciary and there is no item. Specific reinforcements are given. It is very easy to create a very good rule, which in practice later fails and the fault lies with the operators. We operators cannot either go to war with a toothpick (…) We judges end up playing topics by ear, because we are neither psychologists nor social workers. We need a little, in the Judiciary with little a lot is done, “he stressed.

Below is a summary of the interview he had with The Observer.

What are the pressing issues? What needs to be resolved now?

Recently, an international action was filed for the judicial career and a line of action must be developed internally. We are also in a budget hot stage. I appeared with the president of the association at the Finance Commission of Deputies as an associate. To make the corresponding claims, we have been dragging a salary conflict for more than 10 years. We have been considering a hybrid possibility, to contemplate part for this exercise of 2024 and it would have to be finished in the next administration. In 2025 it is not possible because it is an election year. We want it to be as resolved as possible now. The budget of the Judiciary has the same paralysis of 10 years. The judges of gender and family violence are overwhelmed, there are no technical teams that the new regulations require for the analysis of victims. The PJ has been in dire budget need for a long time.

Now it will be your turn to go to Senators as president of AMU. Do you plan to give the appearance another tone?

Not personally, as a group. We have internal decision-making processes. But yes, of course. The issue that we want to continue raising the same, but from a more union perspective. Putting the associate as a worker at the center. It costs a lot for an issue of collective culture that in the association we say “our guild.” We do not feel totally identified with that figure because of the function we fulfill. What does not mean that we are workers.

Many times we have not raised it that way and we have been more lukewarm in our claims and that has perhaps led to us not always being heard. We believe that it is time to stand up from another way in front of our claims, which does not mean that we are going to do things that we cannot do.

We need to develop a dialogue with the Court, which in these two years has been practically non-existent.

As they are part of the Court, can they be part of the guild?

According to our current statutes, yes, but now there is a commission studying to reform them. They, faced with proposals that we have made from our group, have decided to disaffiliate, but until not so long ago they were affiliated. That created some inconsistency.

What meetings do you have planned for when you take office?

We would like to have a meeting with those who have to do with the pension reform, with that work team. Judges and judges develop a task that involves a high level of stress. The extension of the retirement age is being considered here. All the reasons why it is understood that this is necessary have been given, but today there are solutions for police officers, teachers, for the types of work they do, have a lower retirement age.

Would you like to have a lower retirement age?

I think there has to be at least some analysis. The Constitution obliges us to stop at 70 years of age. There are colleagues who reach that age, but I don’t know if a domestic violence judge has to work until they are 65 years old. They are people who are on a shift receiving 60 or 70 calls a day. It is not the same to drive that at 40 than at 63.

We are also prohibited from having any other paid activity while working as judges. I am under penalty of dismissal if I have a kiosk, then we cannot have other savings. We would like to at least express the particularity of our function so that, in some way, it is taken into consideration.

How have you seen the summaries initiated in recent times?

We have concerns regarding the exercise of disciplinary power in the SCJ. We are noticing a hardening in the sanctions in general lines and sometimes for behaviors that can be very minor and that do not harm the Justice service. Also, there is no 100% equal treatment. We do not want there to be impunity, we want what is serious to be sanctioned seriously and that what is less serious is sanctioned less seriously.

But it is not even, there are colleagues who in similar situations receive much harsher sanctions than others.

That from which part?

We do not know for sure. What does set the standard is that there is an exercise, at least wrong, of disciplinary power on many occasions.

It was the second time that he presented himself for the presidency of the guild

Does it have to do with the fact that they appear in the media, so a harsher sanction is used?

We have not yet been able to speak with the Court, but we are concerned that it is being permeable to the media exposure of the cases. No investigation can be permeable to pressure from society, whether from the press or politicians. We note that sometimes there can be interference from the external environment for these things.

In your opinion, did the Legislative Power have the power to reform the judicial career? The integrated Court understood that

I am going from the antecedent. Law 15,750 of 1985 regulates aspects of the judicial career. It is much more synthetic and austere, but it regulates it. Although the Court has the corrective superintendence, to the extent that the norm does not regulate the internal functioning, but rather that it gives objectivity guidelines so that this regulation is carried out by the Supreme Court, we understood that it was not unconstitutional. No one raised the unconstitutionality of the 1985 law. For us, it does not have a basis of unconstitutionality, but the integrated Court understood that it did.

That law (that of the judicial career) was never applied, despite the fact that it has been in force since 2019, which is quite striking, because any citizen who files an action of unconstitutionality is without suspensive effect and has to comply with the law until the Court pronounces. We spent a period without it being applied because the Court understood that it was unconstitutional, without even having filed the action. Then the action was carried out and in the interim, two and a half years in force, it was never applied. Each one will draw the conclusions that he wants about it.

The race is an issue that we have to unlock, even though some minister said that we should worry more about attending the function. I don’t think any of us believe that there is something more important than attending to the function, but as workers we are a global entity. We have no guarantees in the race, we don’t understand why we are promoted or why not.

With increasing frequency, the idea of ​​creating a Ministry of Justice is raised, which among other things could be in charge of the administrative matters that the SCJ is in charge of today. President Pérez said that he was adamantly opposed. Do you have a position?

We wanted to hold a debate on this subject when we were part of the minority board, but we were unsuccessful. We understand that it deserves to be studied. There are many edges from the legal point of view that need to be polished, but I think that we deserve to give the debate to the highest degree and see to what extent in what has to do with the PJ there is not an excessive concentration of power in the hierarchical body and how far you don’t need a counterweight. Let’s bet there will be a serious debate.

More and more frequently, political actors criticize the rulings or the actions of legal operators. How do you see it?

Yes, we in the minority, have been more critical in that in the healthy democratic game, failures, like any work of a public official, can be criticized. What is not good is when you go from that criticism, which is valid, to a personal attack on the magistrate who is there.

Do you notice what has happened?

It’s happening. For us it is important to safeguard the function, that the judges are free from pressure of any kind. It is not good for front-line actors, whether they are politicians or the press, to generate circumstances of suspicion regarding a magistrate who legitimately exercises his function. If these things can happen, they have to be investigated through the corresponding channels.

That delegitimizes the country in some way, because one of the indices to define the degree of investment is how healthy the justice system is.

Did it happen to you?

It happened to me when I had the case of Casa de Galicia. I was accused of conspiring against the government.

Would you have liked the association to come out and defend it?

Yes, I would have liked it and several associates would have been interested. At that time we did not have a defense like the one we deserve and expect from our guild. To discredit a judge in such a sensitive case, which eventually went on the right track and then left a crisis hypothesis. Those are the things that we have to do to avoid media trials.

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