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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Appeals court orders case of congressional lobbyist/delegate’s dismissal back to Superior Court

By John McPhaul

The Court of Appeals on Tuesday reversed the determination of Superior Court Judge Anthony Cuevas Ramos in the case filed by the Department of Justice to remove Elizabeth Torres as a statehood lobbyist/congressional delegate, and ordered that the case be returned to the lower court for further proceedings.

“From the beginning, we have been firm that the case filed by the Department of Justice raises a clear and justiciable controversy as to whether or not this person is complying with the duties established in the legislation,” Justice Secretary Domingo Emanuelli Hernández said Tuesday in a written statement. “We are acting in accordance with the law and now we return to the primary forum to demonstrate it. As well recognized by the Court of Appeals, expenditures of public funds must be legitimate, legal and prudent, they must promote maximum economy and optimal use of public resources and their disbursement must entail prior validation of work carried out in compliance with the law and the regulations concerned. Under our legal system, the unrestricted and blind disbursement of public funds could not be sustained, especially when a person is in clear and direct contravention of the law.”

In its ruling, the appellate court stated that the controversy raised is justiciable and does not constitute a political issue, so the primary court erred in its decision.

The Court of Appeals stated that Law 167-2020, better known as the “Act to Create the Congressional Delegation of Puerto Rico,” established the criteria that congressional delegates must meet, as well as the process of removal “that involves the three branches of government, where each one of them exercises its constitutional function without abrogating a power that does not correspond to it.”

“It is the Executive Branch that makes the decision to dismiss the special delegate, and the courts ensure that said dismissal is carried out in compliance with the law,” reads the appeals court ruling.

The appellate forum also stated that “we cannot lose sight of the fact that, in the implementation of Law 167-2020, supra, there is an outlay of public funds that must be controlled to avoid acts of corruption and/or embezzlement.”

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