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After the Purge in the Supreme Court: “Regime Appoints Over 50 Judges Without Judicial Careers”

Yader Morazán: the Power in the Court Lies with “the Restructuring Commission”: Fidel Moreno, Idalia Reyes, and Róger Martínez

Carlos F. Chamorro

10 de julio 2024

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A process of “restructuring” began in Nicaragua’s Judiciary, following the sweeping removal of more than 1,100 officials and administrative employees by order of Vice President Rosario Murillo in October 2023. This restructuring bypasses the Supreme Court of Justice magistrates, most of whom will not be reelected to their positions.

This restructuring is directed by Fidel Moreno, the organizational secretary of the FSLN and “close confidant” of Rosario Murillo, through administrative officials Arlen Idalia Reyes and Roger Martínez Domínguez, as reported by former judiciary official Yader Morazán.


In an interview with the program Esta Semana, Morazán revealed that on July 4th, more than 50 new judges were appointed in a partisan political event at the Japanese Park, presided over by FSLN operatives Gustavo Porras and Fidel Moreno. “The new judges have been paramilitaries of the FSLN, individuals who also come from the Police or the Army, and despite the outright prohibition against what the Judicial Career Law stipulates, they have been appointed judges. They have neither undergone formal judicial training nor met all the statutory requirements,” Morazán explained.

The sweeping in the judiciary continues

The sweeping in the Judiciary, ordered by Vice President Rosario Murillo, began in October 2023 with the removal of the President of the Supreme Court, Alba Luz Ramos, executed by Police Commissioner General Horacio Rocha. 1,100 dismissals have been counted between late 2023 and early 2024. But in recent weeks, the sweeping continues, with dismissals ongoing. Why?

Yader Morazán: This has had two phases. First, the repressive phase, in which the offices were completely intervened by the Police, led by the commissioner you just mentioned. 

Once they had carried out a general cleansing of those most visible on their list, the “restructuring” process began. They left it in charge of a commission, composed in part by Fidel Moreno, and Arlen Idalia Reyes, who are the eyes of Fidel Moreno in the Judiciary. On the other hand, within the Judiciary, there is Róger Martínez Domínguez, who is the Administrative General Secretary who replaced Berman Martínez, who is currently imprisoned. These administrative areas are exercising greater power, even above the jurisdictional or substantive areas of the Judiciary. These two individuals wield more power than the entire full Court, composed of nine magistrates who are de facto suspended.

In addition to the people you mentioned, the Administrative Director of the Court, William Salas Calderón, and the Chief of Security, Enrique Lago Soto are also involved. They are attributed to having recently raided offices that were even abandoned by former advisers of Justice Ramos, such as Moisés Astorga, who was imprisoned in El Chipote and is one of the 222 ex-political prisoners expelled and denationalized in February 2023. Errol Morales, who has been imprisoned and held incommunicado since October 2023; Norma Corea, who was an advisor to Justice Yadira Centen and fled abroad with her children; Cristian Luna, protocol officer, and her husband Germán Aguilar Baltodano, notifier of the Administrative Litigation Chamber, who also fled Nicaragua due to this persecution. Why are these offices being taken over?

Yader Morazán: In the process of restructuring the Judiciary, as they progress, they encounter things that may hinder them and that are contrary to the guidelines of Rosario Murillo or the directives that have come down from El Carmen. 

There are many offices with specialties, and the first thing they touched were the administrative areas; now they are encroaching on the jurisdictional areas; which corresponds to the administration of justice. We know that there was recently a raid that began on July 2nd in the second building, which is the magistrates' building, and they have removed a large number of files. We do not know the purpose, whether to dust off the files to process them or, perhaps, some act of corruption is somehow shelved there.

Porras, Moreno, and the new "judges"

In addition to the sweeping, in recent days, you have published information on social networks about the appointment of new judges. Who are the new judges? How many are there, and where do they come from?

Yader Morazán: With the names that have reached us, we have been counting over 60 people, approximately. There is a common pattern among the people being appointed, who are all somehow linked to the repressive actions of 2018. Individuals who are known paramilitaries in different cities, individuals who also come from the Police or the Army, and despite the outright prohibition against what the Judicial Career Law stipulates, they have been appointed judges. They have neither pursued a judicial career nor met all the requirements established by the law.

These judges are appointed by the magistrates of the Supreme Court who have practically been non-functional in the Court. Were they called just to appoint the judges?

Yader Morazán: They have not constituted themselves as a full court as established by law, where they form a panel, discuss appointments, and record minutes. They have only received the agreements, signed them, and are dedicated to validating the wills coming directly from El Carmen [the presidential residence]. The magistrates are not working; they have no jurisdictional function at present. They have been dedicated to signing these new appointments and to the wave of dismissals that began in October 2023.

And have the new judges already assumed their responsibilities? Have they been notified?

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Yader Morazán: They were gathered on July 4th at Japanese Park, in an act that was more political than institutional, presided over by Gustavo Porras, Fidel Moreno, Arlen Idalia Reyes, Róger Martínez Domínguez, who are the Judiciary Restructuring Commission. They were notified that they had to assume their roles and that they would be sworn in by the presidents of the Appeals Courts in each jurisdictional court. The procedure has not been based on competition and merit as established by the Judicial Career Law, but rather it has been a politically motivated process.

The Impact on the Administration of Justice

What impact do these anomalous appointments and the situation of these magistrates who are practically without functions have on the processes of justice administration and the functioning of the Judiciary? How does this affect the daily life of the Judiciary?

Yader Morazán: The impact has been, first and foremost, due to the layoffs in the [judicial] processes. Every process that starts has a ticking clock that must end at some point. When it exceeds this clock, many processes can collapse. These processes represent a significant investment by the population, who invest in lawyers and material resources to carry out these procedures. For instance, someone being prosecuted in these Courts might have been released because the duration of the process expired, which is a legal reason for their release.

Additionally, the services provided are impacted by individuals lacking the qualifications necessary to perform effectively and deliver the justice the population deserves. Another effect is that, with all these offices closing, thousands of lawyers have yet to receive authorization to execute public deeds. Over 400 books for marriages and divorces are pending. Furthermore, hundreds of former Judiciary workers have yet to get their severance payments.

How does this affect citizens seeking justice services from the Court?

Yader Morazán: Those most directly affected are those labeled as opponents, such as litigating lawyers. Some judges have stepped down to tell the parties to change their lawyer because the |coup-supporting” lawyer will not win the case while being part of that process. But there is also an indirect impact that will affect the regime's supporters because, since the position directly depends on political will, the person who will win a judicial process will ultimately be the one with the most influence within the party. This is no longer a matter of justice but of power and influence peddling.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court of Justice remains leaderless and politically intervened. Finally, will Rosario Murillo send her list of magistrates to the National Assembly for the Supreme Court of Justice?

Yader Morazán: Everything indicates that the Judiciary, as an autonomous and impartial power, in quotes, will disappear as such, becoming a Ministry of Justice, which is what we are observing being developed. On the other hand, these magistrates who have been rejected since the intervention of the Executive Branch through the Police will not be reappointed as magistrates. Instead, people will be appointed who will more blatantly follow the directives made in El Carmen by Rosario Murillo, who is now taking the lead in the Judiciary.

The supposed shared administration between Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo in the Supreme Court of Justice ended long before this intervention, possibly. Are the decisions now being made by one person?

Yader Morazán: The Judiciary was always composed of structures that had direct communication with Daniel Ortega through Bayardo Arce before 2018. Subsequently, this has been changing to the point that now Rosario Murillo has full control. This does not mean that Daniel Ortega's responsibilities regarding this restructuring are being removed, but that he is stepping aside for Rosario Murillo to handle things from a more repressive perspective, which they have been implementing in all institutions since April 2018.

Who is the link or the executor of those decisions?

Yader Morazán: Since the intervention in October 2023, those leading from the repressive side are Horacio Rocha, who had already played a similar role in other institutions, and Fidel Moreno, Rosario Murillo's trusted person. Once the most repressive phase is over, a restructuring commission is established, currently making all these changes and conducting studies of the various judicial dependencies to determine whether to continue or abolish them.

This article was published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by our staff. To get the most relevant news from our English coverage delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe to The Dispatch.

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Carlos F. Chamorro

Carlos F. Chamorro

Periodista nicaragüense, exiliado en Costa Rica. Fundador y director de Confidencial y Esta Semana. Miembro del Consejo Rector de la Fundación Gabo. Ha sido Knight Fellow en la Universidad de Stanford (1997-1998) y profesor visitante en la Maestría de Periodismo de la Universidad de Berkeley, California (1998-1999). En mayo 2009, obtuvo el Premio a la Libertad de Expresión en Iberoamérica, de Casa América Cataluña (España). En octubre de 2010 recibió el Premio Maria Moors Cabot de la Escuela de Periodismo de la Universidad de Columbia en Nueva York. En 2021 obtuvo el Premio Ortega y Gasset por su trayectoria periodística.

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