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1.05.2011

Supreme Court Presidents: Administrative or Jurisprudential Influence?

The justices of the Mexican Supreme Court (MSC) have just elected, as they do every four years, a new president. Whereas the President of the US Supreme Court can exert considerable jurisprudential influence (with, for instance, its power to assign cases to fellow justices), the president of the MSC wields considerable influence over the administration of the judiciary but very little on the actual court decisions. Jurisprudentially, the president of the MSC is in charge of regulating the debate during the public deliberations of the court and, of course, participates in the deliberations and casts his vote. But not much else, since the assignment of cases to justices for drafting a decision is done seriatim and the president is actually taken out of the list. In contrast, the president of the MSC has a constitutional mandate to administer the human and material resources of the Supreme Court and is simultaneously the president of the Judicial Council, the body in charge of administrating the resources of the federal judiciary that is composed by a majority of judges elected by the Supreme Court.

The new MSC president, Juan Silva Meza, is a respected career judge, specialized in criminal law, who in recent years has mostly sided with the progressives in the court, voting in favor of due process and other kinds of rights, in favor of opting for the interruption of an undesired pregnancy, and in favor of same-sex marriages. This 2011 the MSC will decide important cases on privacy rights, the military jurisdiction, the separation of powers, and socio-economic rights. Both public opinion and the new president himself have in addition emphasized as one the main goals of the new presidency to enhance the transparency and efficiency in the administration of the huge budget that the judiciary enjoys.

There are not many (to my knowledge) comparative studies on the relative powers of Supreme and Constitutional court’s presidents. References would be welcome.

JRF

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