Business groups reject Milei’s Supreme Court nominees

AmCham and IDEA called for honest candidates and gender parity in the country’s top court

Business representatives in Argentina expressed concern about President Javier Milei’s two Supreme Court justice nominees on Tuesday.

Last week, Milei proposed that Buenos Aires federal judge Ariel Lijo should replace Judge Elena Highton de Nolasco, who resigned from Argentina’s top court in October 2021. The dean of the Austral University’s law school, Manuel García-Mansilla was his choice to fill Justice Juan Carlos Maqueda’s spot — Maqueda will turn 75 this year, the constitutional age limit for Supreme Court judges.

The United States Chamber of Commerce in Argentina (AmCham) and the Institute for Business Development in Argentina (IDEA) released two communiqués criticizing Milei’s suggested candidates. AmCham is a chamber that promotes bilateral trade and investment between the United States and Argentina, while IDEA is an NGO representing more than 500 Argentine companies.

In its press release, AmCham expressed “concern and expectations for the appointment of the new members of the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation,” referring to Lijo and García-Mansilla.

“The new members of the Supreme Court must be officials of integrity and honesty, committed to the impartial enforcement of the law and the defense of the fundamental rights of all citizens,” AmCham wrote. They also demanded equal representation of men and women in the Supreme Court since, if Congress approves Milei’s nominees, the top court would be made up of five men. Trust in the judiciary is crucial to create a favorable business environment, AmCham said.

IDEA only targeted Lijo, although they did not refer to him by name. They stressed that Argentina’s top court must be composed of people of  “unquestionable honesty, suitability, trajectory, impartiality and, likewise, who enjoy wide and undisputed recognition and appreciation in the eyes of public opinion.”

“Since there are outstanding [female] jurists who meet such conditions, they should have priority to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Dr. Elena Highton de Nolasco,” the IDEA press release said.

The nominees

Manuel García-Mansilla has a Master of Laws degree from Georgetown University Law Center, is a partner in the Liendo & Associates law firm, and serves as executive director of Argentina’s Hydrocarbon Exploration and Production Chamber. He gained visibility when, during the 2019 congressional debate for the legalization of abortion, he opposed it at the commission stage.

Ariel Lijo has been a federal judge for 20 years. He was the presiding judge for a case related to the 1994 AMIA bombing, eventually sending former President Carlos Menem to oral trial. In 2014, he indicted former Vice President Amado Boudou in a corruption probe. Boudou, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s VP at the time, was condemned to five years and ten months of imprisonment. He was also the judge in the high-profile Correo Argentino corruption case against former President Mauricio Macri.

Last year, National Deputy Juan Manuel López filed a request for impeachment against Lijo for delaying without reason and with “manifest arbitrariness” the resolution of cases.

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