07/29/14 (written by amacdonald) — Claims have surfaced recently of corruption within Mexico’s Supreme Court (Suprema Corte de Justicia Nacional, SCJN), including sexual harassment, illicit enrichment, and nepotism, the latter of which has drawn the most attention. Critics contend that judges and magistrates have created a “judicial family” through nepotism, employing family members and friends over more qualified individuals for administrative posts within the court, including secretarial positions and clerkships.
After claims broke in several La Jornada articles on July 7 and July 8, a week later La Jornada published a list of 25 examples of questionable relations between judiciary employees and their connection to Supreme Court judges and justices. For example, as Mexico Voices translates, “Supreme Court Justice Sergio Salvador Aguirre Angulano placed his nephew, engineer José Antonio Aguierre Camacho, as head of Regional Administration of the Federal Judiciary in Jalisco.” Meanwhile, “Judge Jorge Benítez Pimienta, head of the Fifth Unitary Court of Appeals of the Third Circuit, has three brothers working there—one of whom is Hector Benítez—as well as his nephew Marco Trujillo Benitez in another court.” And for his part, “the son of Judge Gustavo Alcaraz Nuñez works as a chauffeur for Judge Alfonsina Bertha Navarro.”
In response to the allegations, Supreme Court justices and members of the Council of the Federal Judiciary (Consejo de la Judicatura Federal, CJF) justified their hiring practices, arguing they need reliable employees whom they “fully trust.” Juan Carlos Cruz Razo, a member of the Federal Judiciary Council, spoke out as well in favor of the judges’ right to hire family members and friends. According to La Jornada, Cruz Razo also voted against a resolution in 2010 that seeks to curtail biased hiring practices within the court, arguing that judges should be allowed to at least temporarily fill positions “in urgent cases,” even if that includes with potential employees who have not passed an otherwise mandatory hiring exam. Although the Council of the Federal Judiciary approved the resolution on June 23, 2010, four years later court officials acknowledge that judges have failed to uphold the agreement.
According to reports, the ongoing practices of nepotism and unfair hiring processes are frustrating. One potential candidate for a judicial branch position expressed his discontent after receiving high scores on the mandatory exam, yet was not offered the position, acknowledging that it is nearly impossible to get hired if you do not have a personal connection to the judge. Critics have also alleged that the judiciary lacks structure and regulation that would prevent family members and friends of judges from being unfairly hired for the most lucrative jobs working with judges and magistrates, even when the job candidates have passed the entrance exams and are highly qualified. As translated by Mexico Voices, Fernando Camacho Servín of La Jornada argues, “The principal victims [of nepotism, sexual harassment, and alleged illicit enrichment by the highest courts] are citizens who pay for an inefficient and expensive legal system.”
Still, efforts like the 2010 resolution that were intended to address the allegations of nepotism and other corrupt acts within the court need more support, argues Karla Michel Salas, president of Mexico’s National Association of Democratic Lawyers (Asociación Nacional de Abogados Democráticos, ANAD). Salas acknowledged that, more than anything, transparency must become ingrained to root out such practices. “We know these things happen,” she said in La Jornada, “but they have never been made public because the Judiciary is virtually untouchable.” Salas continued, saying the court needs to “set an example of honesty and professional ethics, instead of reproducing a system that is designed so that nothing changes.”
“Poder judicial: vicios a prueba de reformas.” La Jornada. July 7, 2014.
Aranda, Jesús. “Jueces y magistrados continúan con la práctica de colocar a sus familiars en el Poder Judicial.” La Jornada. July 8, 2014.
“Mexico: Nepotism, Sexual Harassment, Illicit Enrichment Signs of Decay in Judicial System – Activist Attorney.” Mexico Voices. July 12, 2014.
Camacho Servín, Fernando. “Nepotismo, acoso sexual y enriquecimiento ilícito, señales de descomposición en el Poder Judicial.” La Jornada. July 12, 2014.
Aranda, Jesús. “La familia judicial, reflejo del rampante nepotismo, acusan.” La Jornada. July 14, 2014.
“Mexico Justice System: ‘Judicial Family’ Reflects Rampant Nepotism in Courts.” Mexico Voices. July 14, 2014.
“Mexico Judiciary: Defects Untouched by Reforms.” Mexico Voices. July 17, 2014.