What will happen if judge Rafael Mozo accepts the resignation of the progressive jurist Concepción Sáez from Spain's General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ)? That is the question that has been hanging in the air since Wednesday night when Sáez, who was nominated by the leftist Izquierda Unida to join the governing body of Spain's judiciary in 2013, asked interim president Mozo to accept her resignation in protest at the deadlocked renewal of the body's membership. Like much of Spain's senior judiciary, the CGPJ has been paralysed in recent years by political polarization between the PSOE and PP, and the failure to agree of the judges in the respective progressive and conservative camps. If Mozo attends to Sáez's request in the next plenary session on March 30th, this would tip the ideological balance within the body in favour of the conservatives. Her departure would leave 10 members proposed by the PP and only seven progressives (one judge by the Basque Nationalists and six by the PSOE), as well as three of the 21 seats vacant, as a result of the death of one member and the retirement of another during the time that the judicial organ has been in limbo. In addition, president Mozo, also from the progressive wing, is expected to retire next year.
Could resignation en bloc force renewal?
However, Sáez's departure, although leaving the CGPJ further strained and the progressive wing weakened, also opens a new possibility that her colleagues were trying to avoid, but which associations such as the progressive Judges for Democracy have long been pressuring their allies on the CGPJ to put into practice: for the progressive bloc to resign and thus force the renewal of the organ. In fact, the seven members of this sector have now agreed to meet and debate this possibility, according to elDiario.es. The meeting is to held this Friday, says the Spanish digital newspaper, and has been proposed by judge Álvaro Cuesta, who argues that "if at least eight of us leave, the plenum will no longer be validly constituted", he pointed out, proposing that they "address and deal with this issue in a coordinated way". Including the former president of the Council, Carlos Lesmes, who also resigned in protest at the blockade last year, they could have the numbers to force this tactic. Members of the CGPJ who resign or die are not replaced until the body renews its full membership.
"Unsustainable" paralysis in the judiciary
Judge Sáez told president Mozo in a letter that her decision was based on the "unsustainable" situation of the CGPJ. The mandate of the current Council expired in December 2018 and since then it has been in office with a conservative majority. During the last five years, the PSOE-led Spanish government has tried to renew it, as set out in the Constitution, but no agreement has ever been reached with the main opposition party, the PP. "I have meditated for some time on the meaning of continuing to exercise the position for which I was appointed in December 2013", begins Sáez in her letter, to which RTVE has had access. "After the five years of the mandate provided for in the Constitution plus four more in office, the issue becomes unavoidable. My decision is to submit my resignation," she adds in the letter, asking Mozo to accept her departure. "You will understand that the situation is already becoming unsustainable. I have trusted that renewal would occur at some point in the successive occasions when it seemed imminent [...]. It is difficult to predict when and how we will see the resolution of this crisis that is causing so much delegitimization to the image of our judicial system," Sáez argues in her text. "The inability to take certain decisions in the ordinary exercise of the powers of this body while demanding the recovery of improper powers of an acting Council, has ended up exhausting my patience", adds Sáez, in reference to the fact that the CGPJ made appointments while it was expired.