The newly elected President of Colombia’s Supreme Court and seven of her colleagues are in trouble for taking an unusual leave of absence to go on a luxury cruise in the Caribbean.
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Marina Diaz and seven magistrates of the Superior Tribunal of Bogota simultaneously took the past week off reportedly to “resolve personal issues,” but were later found together on cruise ship MS Monarch that was cruising the Caribbean.
According to newspaper El Tiempo, Diaz was invited by her colleagues to celebrate her appointment as the first female president of one of Colombia’s highest court.
However, the improvised holiday is controversial because a number of the magistrates who invited the Supreme Court president are candidates for the post of president of the Supreme Court’s civil chamber which has been without chairman since the end of 2011.
Diaz, as court president, does not only have the right to vote for that position, but is also chairman of the plenary chamber that eventually will elect the civil chamber’s president.
The possible conflict of interest generated by the luxury outing is not the only thing that has stirred the controversy; The civil chamber of Bogota’s Superior Tribunal had to do without four of its 21 justices for a week despite massive congestion. Ironically, one of the holiday-goers is Alberto Romero, a magistrate in charge of fixing the congestion of the Bogota court.
To find out whether there was a wrongful use of their leaves of absence and the possible conflict of interest, Colombia’s Supreme Judicial Council opened an investigation against the Bogota judges. The council is not investigating the Supreme Court president, who falls under the jurisdiction of Congress’ Accusations Committee.
The judges returned from their trip on Saturday when the Monarch boarded in Colombia’s main Caribbean tourist city Cartagena. According to Caracol Radio, the judged did not disembark with the remaining tourists on the ship, but took an alternative exit to avoid press.
Diaz did send out a press release, saying that her ticket had been bought by two Bogota magistrates, but with money sent to them by the justice’s son as a Mother’s Day gift.