Catalan High Court fails to find judges for Parliamentary Bureau trial after recusals
The hearings have nevertheless not been postponed
BarcelonaCatalonia's High Court has failed to find available magistrates to hear the case against the members of the previos Parliamentary Bureau next 5, 6 and 7 October, after it upheld the recusals against Carlos Ramos and Jesús María Barrientos over doubts about their impartiality. In a resolution to which the ARA has had access, of which the exmembres of the bureau were notified this Thursday, admits that right now it has not found any magistrate "available" in the list of volunteers. For now, however, it has not postponed scheduled hearings for former speaker Roger Torrent, former deputy speaker Josep Costa and former secretaries Eusebi Campdepadrós and Adriana Delgado.
It also reports on magistrates who have already acted in proceedings to resolve appeals and who, therefore, may not participate in the trial. These are judges Fernando Lacaba and María Jesús Manzano Meseguer.
How will the trial be conducted? It must be taken into account that one of the guarantees of the judicial processes is that the accused must be judged by the judge predetermined by law. It now remains to be seen what solution the Catalan High Court will find in this context. Article 199 of the Organic Law of the Judiciary establishes the options that the court has: beyond looking at the list of volunteer magistrates, it can resort to the lists of territorially assigned judges; judges who have the smallest workload; those who are free at the time of the hearings or, exceptionally, call a non-professional substitute magistrate and pay him separately.
This situation was reached after the former deputy speaker Josep Costa won two challenges against judges Barrientos and Ramos. In the first case, Costa challenged Barrientos's impartiality over his leaving an event on February 23, 2018 at Barcelona Bar Association in which then speaker Torrent denounced the situation of "political prisoners". In the challenge, Costa argued this action denoted partiality and was not "neutral" but an obvious sign of "disagreement". The High Court agreed with him, since it admitted that this behaviour could generate doubts both in the defendants and in part of society.
But Barrientos was not the only judge removed from the case. In August, the court also upheld the recusal of Carlos Ramos, an examining magistrate in the case of Institution of Catalan Letters affecting the president of the chamber, Laura Borràs. Costa argues "the hostility" with which the judge rejected another of his challenges made him inappropriate: Ramos accused him of acting in bad faith and falling into procedural fraud. This tone is now the reason why the High Court has agreed to recuse him.