Replacement of a Justice on Mexico’s Supreme Court

October 17, 2010
Replacement of a Justice on Mexico’s Supreme Court

A Justice of Mexico’s Supreme Court, Jose de Jesus Gudiño Pelayo, recently died unexpectedly, thus, creating a vacancy that will need to be filled in the near future. Justice Gudiño Pelayo was appointed to the Supreme Court following constitutional reforms in 1995 when the Supreme Court changed from 24 to 11 members and received its authority to resolve constitutional controversies and actions alleging unconstitutionality. Such reforms have tended to convert Mexico’s Supreme Court into a Constitutional Court. Justice Gudiño Pelayo distinguished himself as an apolitical judge, with independent and juridical conviction. His individual votes showed this judicial temperament. Remaining outside of political affairs, his career was always linked to the judiciary and legal academia. An author of various books on human rights and technical issues, especially those related to the Mexican amparo (constitutional writ of appeal) procedure, he enjoyed well-deserved professional, judicial and academic respect. The replacement will be designated through a process that is similar to that used in the U.S., in which the President and the Mexican Senate will participate. In Mexico, the President presents a slate of three candidates to the Senate from which such legislative body elects the new Justice for Mexico’s Supreme Court. Candidates must appear before the Senate before the election, and a quorum of at least two thirds of the Senate must be present. The Senate has thirty days to make its designation, and if such period runs without the Senate selecting a new Justice for Mexico’s Supreme Court, the President may then make the designation from the three persons who comprise the candidate slate. If the Senate rejects the slate, the President must send another slate of candidates. Is such new slate is rejected, the President may directly appoint the new justice from the three candidates listed on the slate. The justice who is selected must then take an oath before the Senate to faithfully uphold the Constitution. The question presented in Mexican legal and political arenas whether the new judge who will replace Justice Gudiño will come from the judiciary, academia, the political world or a professional practice. In Mexico, justices of the Supreme Court are designated to occupy their posts for a term of fifteen years, which contrasts with the U.S. practice of designating federal judges for life.

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