Mexico Supreme Court Chief Justice Arturo Zaldivar leaving the National Palace Supreme Court Chief Justice Arturo Zaldivar leaves the National Palace after meeting with President López Obrador on May 6.

Chief justice’s meetings with AMLO in violation of code of ethics

The two men discussed legal matters such as injunctions against reforms proposed by the president

The chief justice of the Supreme Court has violated the federal judiciary’s code of ethics by meeting privately with President López Obrador at the National Palace.

According to a report by the newspaper Reforma, Arturo Zaldívar — considered an ally of the president — has met twice with López Obrador over the past month to discuss legal matters such as injunction requests against the government’s electricity and hydrocarbon reforms.

Supreme Court judges Yasmín Esquivel Mossa and Juan Luis González Alcántara, both of whom were nominated by López Obrador, were also present at one of the meetings, according to the president.

In meeting with AMLO, as the president is commonly known, Zaldívar and the other Supreme Court justices violated the federal judiciary’s code of ethics, which states that judges should avoid meetings outside their workplace with people involved in or related to legal matters before the court in which they work or which they could hear in the future.

One clause in the code states that judges must avoid making or accepting invitations in which their impartiality could be compromised.

Zaldívar’s recent meetings with López Obrador came after Congress approved a law backed by the president to extend the chief justice’s term by two years, a move that has been described by critics as an “assault on justice” and a coup d’etat by the government against the judiciary.

AMLO has defended the decision to extend Zaldívar’s term — even though the Mexican constitution restricts the maximum term of a chief justice to four years — on the grounds that only the chief justice is capable of implementing the government’s laws to overhaul the judicial power.

Reforma said that meetings between a sitting president and Supreme Court judges were considered scandalous in the past.

The newspaper recalled that former president Vicente Fox arranged a meeting at his official residence in 2004 with then chief justice Mariano Azuela to seek his opinion on the possibility of having López Obrador, who was mayor of Mexico City at the time, stripped of his immunity from prosecution, a process known as desafuero.

López Obrador criticized Fox and Azuela at a desafuero trial in federal Congress. He accused Fox of acting dishonorably at a time when Mexico was a “fledgling democracy” and charged that Azuela had subordinated “the high commissions of the constitution to mere political orders.”

Source: Reforma (sp) 

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