Judicial workers flock to back embattled high court magistrate

The entire judicial system seems to be in support of a magistrate who was denied re-election last week.

The full Corte Suprema de Justicia met in public Monday, and the various magistrates expressed their support. One even went so far as to call upon God to enlighten this democracy.

The court itself said that it considered the vote against Magistrate Fernando Cruz Castro to be a blow against its independence. Unlike in the United States, magistrates here are appointed by the Asamblea Legislativa for eight-year terms.

Rolando Vega Robert, another magistrate, called upon his fellow magistrates to dress in black as a sign of mourning. He was the one who called for divine help in a statement.

Meanwhile at the legislature the president, Víctor Emilio Granados Calvo, heard supporters of the magistrate give their views, but he said that no firm decision would be reached until he studied the case. José María Villalta Florez-Estrada of Frente Amplio offered a motion to nullify the Thursday vote, but there was no action on the measure.

Luis Fishman Zonzinski, the legislative leader of the Partido Unidad Socialcristiana announced his resignation from the party leadership post and his separation from his fellow party members in the legislature. He favors the re-election of Cruz.

The Corte Suprema held a session that not only was public but was televised to other rooms in the judicial buildings, to 27 judicial offices all over the country and on an Internet feed.

What 38 lawmakers did by voting to deny the magistrate another term was legal, although there is some question if the technicalities were followed. Still the vote is being called a coup by some in the judiciary.

Prosecutors, judges, public defenders, fellow magistrates and other functionaries have lined up in support of Cruz.

Although by their very nature, magistrates are political players, the full high court issued a statement in which magistrates said they do not accept the existence of a magistrate aligned with a political party. The statement also said that magistrates categorically rejected threats by the leadership of the government party. The majority of those voting against Cruz were from the Partido Liberación Nacional, the party of President Laura Chinchilla.

Supporters of the magistrate suggest that he is being punished for decisions that affected negatively former president Óscar Arias Sánchez and some business interests. Supporters describe him as independent.

The dispute is lost on many Costa Ricans. Some say they see the magistrates simply trying to defend their own jobs because they, too, have to stand for reappointment.

Cruz is a member of the Sala IV constitutional court, one of the four divisions of the high court.

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