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Saturday, April 1, 2017

A Legislature Court: A Conflict of Interest Averted in Venezuela

Fundamentally, a court differs from a legislature, so it would be strange were a state’s supreme court to take it upon itself to act as the state’s legislature as well. In late March, 2017, Venezuela’s Supreme Court did exactly that, ignoring the qualitative difference between interpreting contested law and legislating. The court wrote that lawmakers in the legislature were “in a situation of contempt,” and that as long as that situation lasted the justices would “ensure that parliamentary powers [are] exercised directly by this chamber, or by the body that the chamber chooses.”[1] Understandably, Julio Borges, the head of the legislative Assembly, exclaimed, “They have kidnapped the Constitution, they have kidnapped our rights, they have kidnapped our liberty.”[2] Luisa Ortega, the Attorney General,” wrote that the court’s decision represented “a rupture in the constitutional order.”[3] This was true both in regard to the basic, or fundamental distinction between judicial review and legislating and democracy itself.

The president and chief justice of Venezuela. A conflict of interest in the making?  (Source: Reuters)

The full essay is at "A Legislature Court."


[1] Nicholas Casey and Patricia Torres, “Venezuela Muzzles Legislature, Moving Closer to One-Man Rule,” The New York Times, March 30, 2017.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.