OPENING WORDS AT THE 32ND FRANCISCO DE VITORIA JUDGES ASSOCIATION GENERAL ASSEMBLY BY OUR SPOKESPERSON, RAIMUNDO PRADO BERNABEU
(This speech was given in the presence of the Assembly, local, judicial and regional authorities as the audience and at the Presidential Table, alongside the Honourable Mr Raimundo Prado Bernabéu, the Honourable President of the Supreme Court and the Spanish General Council of the Judiciary, Mr Carlos Lesmes Serrano; the Honourable Regional Minister of Justice of Comunidad Valenciana, Ms Gabriela Bravo Santestanislao; the Honourable President of the High Court of Comunidad Valenciana, Ms Maria Pilar de la Oliva Marrades; and the Honourable Vice-President of the Provincial Government of Alicante, Mr Carlos Castillo Márquez).
Alicante, 15 November 2017.
Before anything else, I’d like to send a strong hug to the family and loved ones of Paco Wilhelmi and Rafael Espejo, who are no longer with us. RIP.
THANK YOU, especially the President, the authorities, the members of the Assembly Committee and the Valencia section, the public and private collaborating entities, all of you who have made this possible. A thank you to Cristina, Alicia and Carlos. And all the other members of the Professional Associations. To this land, simply for existing. And very particularly, today, some very beloved colleagues who have proven what we judges are all about. Some colleagues represented today by a friend. A reserved and humble Magistrate who is nearly invisible when it comes to the superfluous yet is transcending and serious when it comes to all things decisive. A magistrate who, like all who work in this territory, is lucky to be anonymous yet is a tremendous judge. I’m referring to our dear colleagues from Catalonia and our much-admired member Jesús Barrientos, who will institutionally receive the coveted “Prize for Independence” on Friday on behalf of all of them. This prize is even more valuable given that it is granted by other judges. Reward those Magistrates who fulfil their words of professional honour when faced with difficult situations… Just how it should be.
Time has a lot of sharp edges. Meditating on fugacity, one corny Baroque poet would say that “they’re tears and Perseids in an August night-time altarpiece”. A legal professional would be concerned about the calculation of non-business days after the next day for the purposes of submitting briefs. Almost all of us anguish over ends of the month and mortgage terms. In short, life goes by so fast with everything going on.
Going back to the concept of Time. A couple of years ago I offered by first words in Bilbao as the Spokesperson. I did so as the Spokesperson of an Association that was both mature and young. Coherent. An Association born without original sin. Plural and unitary in all that which is essential. I did so as the Spokesperson of an association without worries and a desire for new, clean air. Of an association that demands judicial independence without palliative measures or subjugation, which yearns for decent conditions for the profession.
Two years ago in Bilbao, and later in Valladolid, I addressed you, Mr President, in a loyal and sincere manner to indicate that the road taken up until that point by the Council was not the right one. Not because I thought so because I’m “cleverer”, but because that was the feeling among judges. We then asked you to abandon that tiresome journey.
Meanwhile, Francisco de Vitoria was attempting to bring all other colleagues together. We were committed to unity, we tried and we did it, thanks to everyone as we all knew what was truly important.
These have been complicated times. Someone once said, “Bad times are coming for lyrical poetry.”
For an extended period of time, there have been political gaps, a lack of power, fragmentations. “The biennium of paralysis,” one journalist called it. Despite this, judges, associations and, of course, Francisco de Vitoria must do what we do best: work. Work to find solutions based on respect and firmness. To set forth what’s best for Justice and, thus, for society, without forgetting our professional status (obviously).
We couldn’t have done so badly when the rest of the profession, through boards and plenaries, whether members or not, have unanimously supported our proposals and delegated future actions to be taken as appropriate. Now then, despite all of this and in the meanwhile, the Council is doing its own thing. Without crossing any borders.
We cannot deny –as that would be unfair– that you, as President, have met with us as often as requested, that you have been polite and receptive. But that’s not the issue. The means are important, but if there’s no subject or result, they simply become weak and delicate lines that any brush of air will destroy. The means are not the problem.
The question we ask ourselves is simple. The question is: What has the Council done in the last two years for judges professionally? Unfortunately the answer is much simpler, just seven letters: NOTHING and I mean NOTHING.
True to form, it has sunk its heels in a bureaucratic, administrative, inspectional, coldly institutional atmosphere. “Sticks” have even been thrown, like with the issue of mandatory nominations and associated leaves which, they know all too well, are superfluous measures that won’t resolve any of the essential problems.
Yet after all of this distressing baggage, don’t think we’re going to give up. By conviction, we’re fighters, optimists and perseverant. There’s still time, Mr President. Only a bit, there still is. The support provided by the Council to our colleagues in Catalonia in a real and sincere way shows them which road to take. Mr President: listen to your judges, those wonderful professionals you represent. Roll up your sleeves. Get your hands dirty. Break your neck with whomever may be necessary to improve things. Don’t be intimidated or get anxious when facing the other Powers. Stick with us. We really mean this. There’s still time, Sir. Listen and act consequently.
We’ve been told that there are many good people at Marqués de la Ensenada, but there are also beggars with an office, ward heelers in the derogatory sense of the word. Only looking out for their own interests. Those who belong but don’t represent our profession – forget about them and kick them out. The fawners, the gossips, the correveidiles that do us so much harm. Those that create division and take advantage of the institutions for their own benefit.
Mr President: get back on the right path and walk alongside the honourable Spanish judges. Those of us who are only concerned about our profession, without any other pretensions except performing a decent role and, why not, aspiring to a legitimate outlook always after working, and never before. Although you may think they may do more harm than good, associations today represent judges’ legitimate demands, thanks to the work done. Admit that we’ve gotten ahead of you! Mr President, we have been patient, responsible and faithful to the rule of law. Society and the Powers owe us something. If we are once again ignored, and I say this sadly, (as that would amount to a failure), we shall act as necessary to achieve decent professional conditions, to be heard when choosing who represents us, to make it so we can perform our duties reasonably with quality and restraint. Now, we’re getting serious and will go all the way. Hopefully it’s not necessary.
I shall finish up.
Judges are not sport stars or artists or radio talk-show guests. We don’t reach the masses in a dazzling way. But we are one of the Powers, one of the Powers of a modern state. Necessary for the creation of wealth, the fight against corruption, respect for people’s rights, peace and legal security. A solid bastion, as has been proven in recent times in Spain and in different circumstances. Although some hate it and as obvious as it may seem, judges or rather the Judiciary Powers, are essential and necessary, constitutionally speaking. Judicial power is no more but also no less than any of the other powers. No more complexes! If the Council does not accompany us without our just requests, we will try to get there by walking with the support of the profession and using the legal means within our reach. Let there be no doubt.
Another Assembly has begun. Time is passing by. We’re in a land where the sun is seen as it rises, before anywhere else on the Peninsula. In the land of Mare Nostrum. Let that sun, that blue sea, give us the vitality to keep on going. Let them accompany us in what they represent.
Dear authorities, dear Francisco de Vitoria family, enjoy this Assembly, discuss and reason in a plural, peaceful and noble way, as you’ve always done, in favour of ideas that will improve our profession. Enjoy this time, this short time, with our colleagues. There will be more Assemblies and, as Neruda once said, we’ll never be the same again. Yet, I would add, we’ll be better. There will be other times, other people, but Francisco de Vitoria will still be there seeking a more just society and an independent judicial power. Let there be no doubt. We’ll be there.
Dear Friends. I hug you all from the bottom of my heart and thank you very much.