BUENOS AIRES – The Argentine government on Monday demanded that the Supreme Court replace 97-year-old Justice Carlos Fayt, whom it says is not “able to work every day” but who is refusing to retire.
During his Monday press briefing, Cabinet chief Anibal Fernandez said that the situation at the high court “has gone on long enough” and that the government must appeal “to the rationality, the intelligence and the respect for the nation” among the court’s top leadership.
“He who needs to be replaced has to be replaced. A possible way out has to be found so that once again we have men and women of stature who are able to work every day to resolve the problems of Argentines,” said the official.
Fernandez’s remarks came amid an assault on the judicial branch by the government, which last week raised its level of criticism against Fayt, whose ability to carry out his duties has been called into question in public by several top officials, including President Cristina Fernandez.
In the face of the doubts about his health, Fayt defended himself saying that he feels “fine” and is “working just like always” in a brief message broadcast by Radio America.
In response, the Cabinet chief said Monday that he was not certain that the person who spoke on the radio was actually Fayt and he called for a videotape of the statement to be rebroadcast on television.
In addition, Fayt’s situation is scheduled to be discussed in the lower house’s Impeachment Committee, which recently changed leadership and is now headed by a lawmaker from the governing party.
Since January 1, the court has been operating with one justice fewer than the law establishes due to the resignation of 75-year-old Raul Zaffaroni.
The 1994 constitutional reform establishes that Argentine judges must retire at age 75, but Fayt, Argentina’s longest serving justice ever and who formerly presided over the high court, managed to get a court ruling to retain his post and survived the reduction in magistrates on the body by late former President Nestor Kirchner.
With five months to go before the general elections, in which Cristina Fernandez’s successor will be chosen, and with numerous court cases pending against top officials, including the president, the government is having trouble filling the vacant court seat with its own candidate, Roberto Carles, whose judicial independence has been called into question by opposition lawmakers.