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A Global Judicial News Report: January 2023


Judicature International (2023) | An online-only publication

Guatemala 🇬🇹

Volker Türk, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, called on Guatemalan authorities to take steps to protect justice officials who have been persecuted for fighting corruption and impunity in the Guatemalan government. In 2019, the government shut down the UN-backed International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (also known by its Spanish abbreviation CICIG), which had played an important role in supporting the judicial system’s handling of over 100 high-profile cases of corruption and other crimes. Since the CICIG shut down, officials in the judicial system have faced “repeated intimidation, harassment, and reprisals.” During the last two years alone, the UN Human Rights Office reported that the number of judicial system workers “facing intimidation and criminal charges for their work on corruption or human rights violations” has increased by 70 percent. (UN News)

Haiti 🇭🇹

Haiti’s judicial oversight board told the justice minister that the certification of 30 judges will not be renewed and has cleared the way for their removal from the bench. The Superior Council of the Judiciary cited misconduct ranging from drunkenness to facilitating the release of criminals in a country already reeling from rampant gang violence. Now, the decision on whether to remove the judges rests in the hands of interim Prime Minister Ariel Henry. Marie Yolène Gilles, the head of the Eyes Wide Open Foundation, is calling on the government to go further and prosecute the judges who have committed crimes. “Firing them would be too easy. When you commit a crime, you need to pay for it . . . There are so many people who have been victimized by these corrupt judges.” (Miami Herald)

Mexico 🇲🇽

Justice Norma Lucía Piña was elected Chief Justice of Mexico’s Supreme Court. She is the first woman to hold the position. Justice Piña, who ran against another female justice, Yasmín Esquivel, secured the position in a 6-5 vote by the 11-member body. After being sworn in for her four-year term, Chief Justice Piña laid out her vision, emphasizing that “[j]udicial independence is indispensable in resolving conflicts between the branches of government.” (LA Times)

India 🇮🇳

Senior members of India’s government have recently sought to play a larger role in the selection of judges. In response, lawyers and judges are concerned that giving government officials greater power in the selection process would threaten the judiciary’s independence. Under the current selection system, the collegium – composed of senior members of the judiciary – recommends judicial candidates to the Law and Justice Ministry. If these candidates pass their security check, they ascend to the bench. Now, “the government is seeking a role in selecting the candidates” along with the collegium. Former Supreme Court judge and former solicitor general, N. Santosh Hedge, condemned the move, saying it is indicative of “the legislative authority trying to become the supreme power.” (Reuters)

International Association of Women Judges 🌐

The Bolch Judicial Institute announced that the International Association of Women Judges (IAWJ) was awarded the 2023 Bolch Prize for the Rule of Law. Founded nearly thirty years ago, the IAWJ “supports and empowers its global network of women judges to advance gender equality and human rights.” In its announcement, the Bolch Judicial Institute recognized the IAWJ’s “remarkable efforts to evacuate, support, and resettle Afghan women judges who . . . faced persecution and violence since the Taliban took control of the country in late 2021.” A ceremony honoring the IAWJ will be held at Duke University on March 1, 2023. (Bolch Judicial Institute)

Israel 🇮🇱

Plans by Israel’s new right-wing government to overhaul the judicial system sparked large-scale protests in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Haifa. Three weeks into his new administration, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sought to limit the Israeli Supreme Court’s powers. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s reforms would strip the Supreme Court of its judicial review power and replace non-partisan legal advisers with political appointees in the selection process for judges. Speaking at the protest in Tel Aviv, Ehud Barak – the former prime minister and former army chief of staff – told protesters that the proposed reforms “would ‘crush’ the judicial system.” (NY Times)

Nepal 🇳🇵

A conference organized by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and the Nepal Bar Association brought together Nepalese judges to discuss measures to increase women’s access to justice. Attendees discussed the government’s obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CDAW) and the Bangkok General Guidance for Judges on Applying a Gender Perspective (BGG). Laxmi Pokharel, a legal adviser for the ICJ, stressed the importance of these conferences, saying, “such judicial dialogue shows a firm commitment from the judges to be more mindful about avoiding gender stereotypes and biases, the result of such actions will not only benefit women but the entire judicial sector and society as a whole.” (International Commission of Jurists)

United Kingdom 🇬🇧

survey by the Law Society revealed that roughly two-thirds of respondents in England and Wales had suffered delays in their cases due to the poor physical condition of the courts. Solicitors identified a range of problems, including a “lack of private spaces for client consultations, broken air conditioning, lack of drinking water or other refreshments, poor technology, broken lifts and other accessibility problems, particularly affecting clients and advocates with disabilities.” The survey came on the heels of the Law Society’s announcement regarding its plan to handle the ongoing 63,000 case backlog in the crown courts. Law Society chair, Lubna Shuja, said, “The poor state of court buildings across England and Wales is a contributor to the huge backlog of court cases and a stark illustration of the lack of investment in our justice system.” (The Guardian)

United States 🇺🇸

The Supreme Court announced that its internal investigation into the leaked draft of the opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization failed to identify the source of the leak. After the May 2022 leak, which Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. called “a singular and egregious breach,” Chief Justice Roberts tasked the Court’s marshal with overseeing the investigation. As part of its announcement, the Court released the marshal’s report, which details the months-long investigation that included 126 formal interviews with 97 of the Court’s employees. (NY Times)

The January 2023 Global Judicial News Report was compiled and written by Grady S. MacPhee, J.D., LL.M. candidate at Duke University School of Law.