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Supreme Court appointee Brignoni Mártir voted against access to public information

By The Star Staff

Among her hundreds of rulings as an Appeals Court judge is one in which Puerto Rico Supreme Court associate justice nominee Maritere Brignoni Mártir voted with other judges in favor of keeping information on tax abatements confidential and inaccessible to the public and another in which the top court sided with her dissenting opinion in a family case.

Back on March 6, 2019, Appeals Court Judge Brignoni Mártir, along with other members of the Court of Appeals, ruled in favor of keeping a report on tax reduction agreements and other fiscal expenditures that was prepared by the Puerto Rico government and delivered to the Financial Oversight and Management Board (FOMB) confidential and out of the public eye, overturning a San Juan Superior Court determination requiring the Treasury Department to make information that was disclosed to the FOMB public. The report had been requested by non-profit organization Espacios Abiertos (EA).

On Nov. 6, 2018, EA filed a petition for mandamus before the Superior Court to access the report arguing that it is considered “a public document in light of the Public Documents Act and the extensive jurisprudence of the Puerto Rico Supreme Court.”

In a ruling written by Brignoni Mártir, she argued that Section 208(B)(2) of the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA) expressly forbade both oversight board members and staff from disclosing the report’s contents, and ruled that the limitation on the report’s disclosure established in PROMESA extends to the governor of Puerto Rico and his or her representative on the board.

Judge Brignoni Mártir has had to review many determinations for the Court of Appeals. On some occasions, she has joined the other judges and on others she has been the dissenting voice. For fiscal year 2018-2019, Brignoni Mártir resolved 129 cases out of 164 assigned to her. She wrote a dissenting opinion in two cases, according to Appeals Court statistics.

Microjuris on Sunday highlighted four of her outstanding interventions according to their search engine. The Puerto Rico Supreme Court agreed with Brignoni Mártir in the case Silva Barreto v. Tejada Martell, in which the Superior Court had awarded custody of two minors to the mother, who had received a job offer in Peru.

The Superior Court decided that it was best for the minors to move in with their mother, Katia M. Silva Barreto. Meanwhile, the father, Gonzalo F. Tejada Martell, had requested that the mother reimburse him for the money for an orthodontic process for the minors and the monthly fees for the minors’ school, and that a deposition be taken from the social worker in the case. The lower court denied the father’s petition and reconsideration. Later, Tejada Martell went to the Court of Appeals.

The appeals court dismissed the appeal because Tejada Martell could not use a single appeal to jointly challenge two rulings that were issued separately. The Supreme Court later determined that it was feasible to challenge two cases, although different, within the same appeal procedure.

“The mere fact that there are separate resolutions is not sufficient reason to require the disagreeing party to present the same number of appeals as the promulgated determinations,” says the Supreme Court’s determination, through the voice of Judge Roberto Feliberti Cintrón. “Judge Brignoni Mártir issued a dissenting vote in which she indicated that she had reviewed at least the partial sentence in favor of procedural economy, to safeguard the right to appeal and because fees corresponding to a remedy had been paid.”

Brignoni Mártir sided with the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation in mid-2016 in a case in which Efraín Osorio Iglesias, a person confined in the Correctional Institution of Bayamón 292, requested that the Court of Appeals review a Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation resolution that deprived him of visitation and recreation for 40 days.

The judge confirmed the determination of the department.

“Appellate courts must grant great deference to the decisions made by the agencies,” she said.

Brignoni Mártir confirmed a criminal sentence against William González Acosta after the Superior Court found him guilty of crimes related to robbery.

González Acosta pointed out in his petition to the Court of Appeals that there was not enough evidence of his presence at the scene of the crimes and that his identification was contradictory and flawed. However, Brignoni Mártir wrote in her ruling that “direct evidence from a witness who deserves full credit is sufficient proof of any fact.”

“In the absence of a demonstration that there was passion, prejudice, partiality or manifest error, when the judge decides credibility, [the judge] should not intervene with the assessment of the evidence,” she pointed out.

Brignoni Mártir was a dissenting vote in an employment case. In 2014, Walter Rodríguez Adrovet filed a complaint for unjustified dismissal against the companies Coming Soon House and Johncristmig House. The companies presented their reply, and subsequently, filed a second amended reply. Rodríguez Adrovet opposed the request for an amendment, but the Superior Court authorized the amendment to the reply.

Rodríguez Adrovet appealed to the Court of Appeals. According to the plaintiff, it was a summary process -- where there is no controversy about the facts -- and the companies were trying to present defenses that they had already renounced.

The Appeals Court panel decided that Rodríguez Adrovet had been late to court to present his petition.

However, Brignoni Mártir presented a dissenting vote.

“I believe that establishing a shorter term than that provided by the rules of civil procedure to appeal an interlocutory determination, when the special law and the interpretative jurisprudence are silent on it, has the effect of [negatively] affecting the right of the creditor parties to a valid remedy in law,” the appeals court judge stated in her dissenting opinion.

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