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Rossello's Court Nominee May Balance Justice’s Scales

by Ivan Roman

May 21, 2000
Copyright © 2000 THE ORLANDO SENTINEL. All Rights Reserved.

 SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - Gov. Pedro Rossello had waited for so long that when the chance came, he wasted no time.

He nominated his former judiciary adviser and now Puerto Rico Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Efrain Rivera Perez to the island's Supreme Court, just a day after Antonio Negron Garcia stepped down after 26 years on the bench. Rossello had nominated just one of seven justices. For years, he has been battling with the Supreme Court, alleging it is weighted toward the opposition Popular Democratic Party.

After the court blocked demolition of a Condado hotel and stopped construction of a highway project, New Progressive Party leaders accused the judges of being in the PDP's pocket.

Rivera Perez's appointment is a chance to balance the scales a little, leaving the court with three pro- statehood judges and four judges appointed by PDP governors. Rossello said he selected someone who shares his "vision" of Puerto Rico and its future.

"That's the natural thing to do," Rossello told reporters. "I don't think any of you would appoint someone that doesn't share your vision of things."

It's his past activism, not his vision, that worries critics. As head of Rossello's judicial reform in his first term, Rivera Perez was the architect of a failed referendum to increase the number of high court seats so the governor could appoint more judges. And Rivera Perez is closely identified with the NPP's conservative wing, which advocates complete allegiance to the United States.

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