Courts Administration shelves complaint against judges in Ruiz Costas case
By John McPhaul
Courts Administration Director Sigfrido Steidel Figueroa announced Wednesday that the Office of Legal Affairs concluded that “the standard of legal evidence required to institute a disciplinary procedure is not met” against Judges Sonya Nieves Cordero and Ingrid Alvarado Rodríguez, who presided over Andrea Ruiz Costas’ requests for protection against her alleged attacker, who eventually killed her.
According to written statement from the Courts Administration Office, Steidel Figueroa ordered the shelving of the complaints filed in which it is alleged that the aforementioned judges violated the Canons of Judicial Ethics during the hearings in which Ruiz Costas appeared as an applicant for an order of protection by the public prosecutor, against Miguel Ocasio Santiago, who would become her alleged murderer.
The determination was reported to both municipal judges and to Olga Costas Rodríguez, the victim’s mother, who had filed a complaint that led to an investigation. The investigation was consolidated with another that had already begun on the matter.
“We emphasize that the scope of the disciplinary investigation that was conducted is limited, since the Courts Administration Office does not have the power to pass judgment on the correctness or not of a judicial opinion, in substitution of the legal review mechanisms provided by law,” reads the letter addressed to Costas Rodríguez. “Our legal system establishes independent mechanisms to review the correctness of these opinions, which occurs before the corresponding judicial forums and not in the disciplinary field. Thus, an erroneous decision of a judge, without more (evidence), either when assessing the evidence or when granting or rejecting a remedy, is not an adequate basis for a disciplinary process. Such decisions can only be questioned through the appealing procedural procedures established by law.”
The letter further notes that, from a disciplinary point of view, the evidence indicates that both judges addressed Andrea Ruiz Costas’ claims and made their determinations, without evidence that they acted due to factors unrelated to the process or their interpretation of the evidence and the law applicable to the facts.
Likewise, the investigation revealed that the components of the Specialized Chamber for Domestic Violence were activated to offer various services and support, including the availability of shelters for protection and assistance during the judicial processes.
Ruiz Costas was slain on April 29 and her body was found by the authorities on Highway 184 in the Guavate neighborhood in Cayey. Her alleged murderer, Ocasio Santiago, committed suicide in the Bayamón prison where he was being held awaiting trial.