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The ten violations to Venezuela's Constitution in the new TSJ bill

By Miguel Octavio

For the last two days, Constitutional expert Gerardo Blyde has being making the rounds of the media with his conclusions on the new Supreme Court (TSJ) Bill which was approved by the National Assembly and will soon go into effect if the Cabinet and the Court itself approve it. The most complete article is in yesterday’s El Nacional page A-4, which unfortunately is by subscription only and the price of the subscription has gone up significantly. Here is Blyde’s opinion of the ten violations incurred in this Bill:

-The new TSJ law should have been approved with a qualified majority. Art. 203 of the Constitution explicitly says that a qualified majority will apply to changes in any Organic bill like the TSJ Bill. The Bill was approved with a simple majority.

-The Constitution establishes in Art. 209 that any report on any proposed Bill has to be approved article by article. Articles were twice approved in blocks.

-The number of Justices is increased from 20 to 32. The current number of twenty was established by the Constituent Assembly after it approved the new Constitution. This is thus considered a “constituent act” according to Blyde, which implies that only a change in the Constitution can modify it.

-All position named by the national Assembly require a two thirds or qualified majority. The Constitution is silent on the majority required for the naming the Justices of the highest Court. To Blyde this implies that the qualified majority extends to the naming of the Justices.

-Art. 264 of the Constitution establishes that nominations to the Court have to be made via a Nomination Committee, chosen by the Judicial power, which will pre-select the candidates so that a second selection is made by the citizens power and then the National assembly will choose the Justices. In the new Bill Nomination Committee is chosen by the National assembly itself and will have Deputies in it. Additionally, it allows the citizens power to override the selections of the Nomination Committee and even consider new candidates.

-Alternate Justices will not be named for twelve years as established by Art. 264 of the Constitution but for two years.

-The Constitution establishes in Art. 336 that it is the exclusive role of the Constitutional hall of the National Assembly to exert control over the acts of the National Assembly which relate to the Constitution. However, the National Assembly introduces the ability of the Assembly to void the naming of a Justice by simple majority.

-The Constitution states that a Justice can only be removed with a qualified majority of the National Assembly when a Justice commits what is considered a “grave fault”. The new Bill gives the citizens power the ability to suspend a Justice until the assembly determines that he should be removed.

-The Constitution states explicitly that only the president and the Deputies of the national Assembly would need the approval of the Assembly to allow a trial of any of them to decide on their removal. The new Bill extends this approval to military officials, the Vice-President, the Justices and the members of the citizens’ power.

-Only the Constitutional Hall can act on its own to rule on a violation of the Constitution because its decision does not necessarily have an interested party but defend the rights of everyone, which goes beyond a party bringing suit. The new Bill allows all Halls to act in this way.

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