President Alberto Fernández signed decrees Thursday formalising the outcome of a Senate vote that will see three judges involved in corruption cases against Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner removed from their posts.
Fernández’s move, annulling similar decrees issued during the Mauricio Macri presidency, will see the three magistrates – federal appeals court judges Leopoldo Bruglia and Pablo Bertuzzi and judge Germán Castelli – return to their original tribunals, although Supreme Court ratification has yet to be clarified.
The judges needed the ratification of the government-controlled Senate to remain in their current positions, but the vote means they will now be transferred to other courts.
Decrees 750, 751 and 752 were published on Thursday with the presidential signature in the Official Gazette, thus overturning the transfers during the previous presidency on the grounds that they had not been endorsed by senators.
The Supreme Court must now resolve a challenge presented by the magistrates Leopoldo Bruglia and Pablo Bertuzzi requiring its "immediate intervention" to halt the Senate session but the Court responded that it could not rule on an issue ahead of the event.
Bruglia and Bertuzzi are members of the first chamber of the Federal Appeals Court while Castelli is a magistrate in Tribunal Oral Federal 7 (TOF 7). If the annulation of their transfers is confirmed, Bruglia must return to TOF 4 and Bertuzzi to the TOF 1 of La Plata, though both point out that those benches are already occupied. Castelli would have to return to the Tribunal Oral Criminal Federal N3 in San Martín.
All three of the removed judges are intervening in cases investigating charges of corruption involving the ex-president among others.
Wednesday’s vote to reject the transfer was passed by 41 of the 72 senators in the absence of the Juntos por el Cambio opposition, which abandoned the session (held virtually due to the health restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic).
Opposition senator Martin Lousteau criticised the vote before leaving the session, declaring that “today’s agenda is to sideline three judges hearing cases involving the vice-president.”
Fernández de Kirchner, Argentina's president between 2007 and 2015 and indicted in nine cases (mostly corruption), maintains that the trials are nothing more than the result of political persecution against her by the Macri administration.
The government introduced a controversial judicial reform package back in July that will expand the number of federal courts in an effort to reduce the power and influence of federal judges, who are widely accused of making politically motivated decisions.
The reforms have been rejected outright by the opposition, who argue they are designed to weaken the Judiciary and allow Fernández de Kirchner to control corruption cases against her.