Still no Supreme Judicial Court magistrate appointments

El Salvador's National Assembly remains unable to agree on new magistrates to El Salvador's Supreme Judicial Court.   A super-majority vote of members of the Assembly is required, to decide on the magistrates to be named and their appointment to specific chambers of the court.   So far, no combination of parties has been able to come up with the required votes for a given slate of judges.  Two months have passed since the deadline to name new magistrates to the court.

The parties are bargaining back and forth over different names from a list of 30 candidates.  The risk of such bargaining is that it can produce judges who see themselves as beholden to one particular party or another.     The bargaining does not always (ever?) appear to be focused on which are the most qualified candidates.

According to La Prensa Grafica, the primary dispute among the various parties involves which magistrates will go to fill the open positions in the Constitutional Chamber.   That Chamber is the most important of the chambers of the Supreme Judicial Court with the power to declare laws unconstitutional and to handle petitions of habeas corpus.  The Chamber's four departing deputies played an important role in shaping Salvadoran law over the past nine years.

One deputy, Francisco Merino of PCN, was quoted in today's LPG stating that serious external pressure is being  brought to bear on deputies in the Assembly concerning their votes for magistrates.   The pressure he said, comes form party leadership and comes from party donors.

Civil society groups committed to transparency in this process have asked for the opportunity to explain independent evaluations of the qualifications of the candidates.  It was not promising when FMLN deputy Jorge Schafik Handal objected, saying it would create disorder to allow civil society to present information in such an important election.   ARENA agreed, as National Assembly president Norman Quijano decided that civil society groups would only be allowed to make written submissions.

Earlier in this process, someone commented that delay was OK if the National Assembly was using that time to get the best possible judges.   It's not clear that is how they are using their time.