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5774 federal employees can’t be wrong… or can they?

12 December 2018

What price justice?  For 5774 federal employees, mostly judges and magistrates, the cuts to salaries and benefits for government employees comes down to… depending on who you listen to… either feathering their own nests, or a high-spirited defense of judicial independence.  The 5774 amparos (injunctions) filed against the federal government’s attempts to cut salaries in the judiciary have led to the Supreme Court, this week, abrogating any cuts in judicial salaries, at least for right now.

As a constitutional matter, no federal officer can receive a higher salary than the President… who cut his own salary by 60%.  On the other hand, the Constitution also prevents judges from having their salaries cut during their tenure in office… a reasonable enough measure meant to protect the judges from being punished financially for decisions that might go against the wishes of the Executive branch.

But, it’s the Legislative branch that controls the budget… giving the whole country a classic civics lesson.

MORENA controls the legislature and the executive… both elected by a substantial margin over all the opposition parties.  The latter are left claiming they’re fighting for the independent judiciary, something at least the two former main parties (PRI and PAN) were quite willing to subvert when they were in the majority (everyone forgets President Zedillo simply fired the entire Supreme Court when it became an impediment to his own programs).  But, given that some justices, and not just the Supremes earn, on top of their salaries, bonus and benefits coming out to over 500,000 pesos a month, when the president’s salary tops out at a bit over 100,000 and the retired Supreme Court justice, Olga Sanchez Cordero gets almost twice that amount as pension payment (to her credit, she is donating her income as Interior Minister to a group home in Queretaro State), it is a hill I doubt the opposition parties are willing to die on.

And even the judges are starting to come around… realizing how greedy this makes them look in a country where half the people earn less that 4000 pesos a month.  And, where one of their own had the temerity to post Instagram and Facebook photos of his flashy cars, Rolexes and the fine imported cigars which he favors.

My guess… the constitutional issue, what with MORENA also controlling a majority of state legislatures will be resolved fairly quickly, and while sitting justices might still be entitled to their high income sinecures, going forward, judges will still not have their incomes cut during their tenure, but that income will be more reasonable.  Which is something the Supreme Court (for their own members) agreed to today… although only as a matter of policy, not of law.

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