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Disgraceful return to the bench

Supreme Court readmits the judge who was bribed in the "Malaya case" scandal

The Spanish Supreme Court has made a decision which casts doubt on the rigor with which it applies the most elementary rules, when it is a matter of administering justice to one who is a member of the judiciary.

The concrete case that was the object of the Supreme Court's ruling was notorious at the time, having been a matter of a judge - that of the No. 2 Magistrate's Court in Marbella, Francisco Javier de Urquía - who was sullied by the wave of corruption then prevailing in that city, in the form of a 73,800-euro bribe for the purchase of his house. This formed a new chapter in the so-called "Malaya case," concerning a land-zoning corruption racket masterminded by Juan Antonio Roca, town planning manager for the City Hall of Marbella in the later stages of the reign of the city's corrupt political boss, Jesús Gil. In return for this monetary consideration, Judge Urquía issued a number of rulings favorable to Roca's interests in proceedings that came under his purview.

At the time Urquía was sentenced by the High Court of Justice of Andalusia to two years of imprisonment and 17 of professional disqualification, for accepting a bribe and misusing his office to produce a miscarriage of justice. But the Supreme Court postponed its consideration of the first of these crimes, and imposed on him a sentence of 21 months of suspension, which has already gone by. However, the General Council of the Judiciary refused to reinstate him two years ago, considering that the criminal record deriving from the earlier conviction was still in force, and did not expire until the end of this year.

Besides all this, Urquía still has pending review in the Supreme Court another conviction, involving another two years in prison and 17 of professional disqualification, for accepting another bribe - this time of 60,000 euros - from a person who was facing charges in a case that came up in his court.

In its ruling, however, the Supreme Court alleges that the judge's criminal record - a final conviction for taking bribes - is no impediment to his readmittance to the judiciary, though it does acknowledge that such a record would have prevented him from becoming a judge in the first place.

The Court discerns here a "legislative vacuum," which might well be said to exist only in the minds of the judges: for if the lack of a criminal record constitutes an indispensable requisite for becoming a judge, it would necessarily have to be deduced from this, even if the law does not expressly say so, that it must also be an indispensable requisite for exercising this function.

All that can be done is to wait and see what happens in connection with the other conviction for bribery. But it is clear that in very many cases, the professional guild interests and the family endogamy that still largely persist in the Spanish judiciary - Urquía is the son of a judge - seem to count for more than the most blindingly obvious logic of juridical reasoning.