|The Chaco Legislature, the first to vote on a civil jury law|
in the world outside the common law
December 16th, 2020 will be remembered in the days to come as the date on which everything changed for the Argentine civil process. In a session that had dramatic overtones, typical of the clamorous legislative debates, the Chaco Legislature passed into law the Civil Jury Act that establishes section 24 of the Constitution and rewrote the History of Constitutional Law in Argentina. It is the law 3325-B.
Thus, the Chaco´s House became the first in all of the civil law countries to pass a law that establishes juries in civil matters. A difficult feat to accomplish. Memorable. Unequaled.
The bill was submitted by the executive branch in September (Global Impact: civil jury in Chaco). Furthermore, it is the first time that a civil jury system has been legislated outside the Common Law. This way, the citizens of Chaco will participate not only in the trial of criminal cases, but will also decide in the most relevant cases of civil procedure.
Thus, Chaco places itself at the international forefront in matters of democratization of Justice and will be a model to follow for Argentina and Latin America.
Perhaps a few years will need to go by and several more laws will have to be passed to truly assess the importance of this memorable day of December. The Government and representatives of Chaco will go down in history as those responsible for having opened the doors of Civil Justice to the citizens , in an irreversible step towards orality and judicial democratization.
|Representatives Nadia García Amud, Hugo Sager|
and Juan M. Pedrini, heroes of the jury´s feat
Those who follow the progress of the Justice Reform and trial by jury in Latin America know the resistance generated by the end of the inquisitorial obscurantism, especially in criminal matters. That opposition multiplies exponentially when we speak of civil justice. It is no wonder: controversies over tort liability, class actions cases, environmental litigation, cases of freedom of speech, among other issues of great political and economic importance, were historically handled by large interest groups, thanks to the arbitrary discretion allowed by the culture of the written procedure. A feudal and medieval justice in the XXI century.
Now the People will decide those cases, in public and oral trials that will forever transform the logic of a justice system so important for democratic coexistence. Citizens themselves will be in charge of demonstrating, once again, that those who trust in the participation of the People in deciding matters of public importance are not only not making mistakes, but are building the foundations of a true Republic.
|Governor Capitanich recieves Andrés Harfuch,|
VP of the AAJJ, the day before the sanction.
CHRONICLE OF THE MEMORABLE DAY
The discussion in the Legislature was not exempt from the tension typical of such a transcendent change and with great interests in dispute. It is a story that deserves to be told, so that future generations who enjoy the benefits of the civil jury will not forget all that was at stake. What happened in that venue was memorable, an epic feat with a happy ending for the jury of the National Constitution.
The very idea of a law that establishes full orality in the civil jurisdiction –and with juries– unleashed the fury of the most old-fashioned sectors of the legal profession and scholarship: "embarrassment", "shameful session", "it is unconstitutional", "untrained lay people cannot render a verdict on a civil matter","people have no training", "a law imported from Buenos Aires" (Jurassic Park).
It is impossible not to evoke the parliamentary debate in the House of Representatives of the United States, at the end of the Civil War in 1867, to reform its Constitution. President Abraham Lincoln's goal was to pass the 13th Amendment to abolish slavery.
Spielberg's immortal film "Lincoln" portrayed the fierceness of these debates like no other. The abolition of slavery won by just a handful of votes and after several scenes of fighting, blackouts, insults and feverish last-minute negotiations. In Chaco, representative Pedrini had to be hospitalized with 25 pressure after finishing the debate.
|The wrathful supporters of slavery|
Let's go back to Chaco and its jury law. In the morning, representative Luis Obeid (Liberal Party), suggested a valuable contribution to the law: that there be a special master next to the judge to assist him in class actions litigation. The majority party accepted it and thus secured a vote that was fundamental. Two legislators from the UCR (Radical Party) were not present, which reduced the opposition two key votes.
When everything was ready for the vote, after six hours of extreme tension in which two other laws were tightly voted, Congressman Aurelio Díaz (Workers Party) had to leave to see the eye doctor because of a severe eye condition. The UCR and CER bench (Peronists not aligned with the current administration) took advantage of the situation and rose from their benches in order to prevent a quorum. The session was down.
That is when the cunning and experience of Hugo Sager, president of the Legislature, was set in motion. The majority party remained seated in their benches, while the UCR and CER -determined to give the Governor a political defeat at all costs in such an important project - remained in the building, but abandoning their benches. There were insults, yelling, recriminations and cross taunting. It was a dramatic and suspenseful 20 minutes. The session was falling apart and, with it, the civil jury law, caught up in a local political dispute.
And, suddenly, the unexpected. The majority leader, Juan Manuel Pedrini, went in person together with representative Liliana Spoljaric to the eye doctor to look for the Trotskyist legislator Aurelio Díaz, who agreed to give a quorum only if it was accepted that the State could also be sued in the collective actions. The majority party agreed and Díaz returned to his bench and voted against. When all was lost, the session was revived. There was a quorum again.
The atmosphere was charged with total tension and drama. You had to see the faces of the opposition when they saw Aurelio Díaz sitting back on his bench. The move to overturn the Civil Jury Act had failed. Leaving a session without a quorum is a valid parliamentary resource, but one that carries very high risks that the opposition paid dearly: the ruling party, now with quorum, could vote with the members present who had remained in their seats. They decided to do it immediately and without the usual speeches. The opposition flocked to the venue to try to twist the outcome, but it was too late. The civil jury became law.
|16 votes in favor, 4 against and 10 abstentions|
THE HEROES OF THE EPIC ACCOMPLISHMENT
The main characters of this feat have a name and last name, which will be inscribed in the great history of jury trials. We are talking about the Governor of Chaco, Jorge Capitanich, the sponsor of this law, just as he had done with the Criminal Jury Act; the Minister Gloria Zalazar; Undersecretary of Justice Lourdes Polo and her team, Camila Parra and Fernando Sosa, and Undersecretary of Planning Leandro Álvarez and his team, Camila Arce and Joaquín Dudik. All of them were the main architects of this great achievement, together with the advice of the INECIP, the AAJJ, the CEJA and Pensamiento Civil.
The Chaco Legislature is also commended for being the first law House in Latin America to pass a law of trial by civil jury outside the Common Law. Special mention to House Representatives Nadia García Amud, Jessica Ayala, Liliana Spoljaric, Juan Manuel Pedrini, Hugo Sager and Luis Obeid, without whose commitment the sanction of this law would not have been possible.
|Nadia García Amud (PJ),|
|Hugo Sager, president of the House|
|Luis Obeid (Liberal)|
|Jessica Ayala (PJ)|
|Aurelio Díaz (Workers Party), key in |
the quorum, even if he voted against
|Lili Spoljaric (PJ)|
THE CHACO CIVIL JURY TRIAL LAW
Chaco’s Civil Jury Act 3325-B has an indisputable world-class hierarchy, since it simultaneously regulates absolutely innovative aspects for Argentine civil procedural law:
1) Makes oral and public civil trials mandatory.
2) Establishes a civil jury of twelve members, the trial is presided by a judge who will instruct the jury on the law, and a general unanimous verdict. A special verdict may also be rendered. The jury will try class actions, consumer rights collective disputes, tort cases of over half a million pesos and collective environmental and land disputes.
3) Establishes by law the civil adversarial litigation in a mandatory oral and public trial.
4) The jury will have gender equality: the jury will be composed of six women and six men.
5) Indigenous jury: if the plaintiff and the defendant belong to the Wichí, Moqoit or Qom Indigenous Peoples, the twelve jurors will be of that ethnic group.
6) Provides both a discovery hearing and a case management hearing.
Read the news here:
- LATAM Legal (18/12/20): "Chaco aprobó el juicio por jurado para procesos civiles y comerciales, y es pionera en Latinoamérica" (ver)
- Chaco Todo el Día (17/12/20): "Instauran los Juicios por Jurados civiles y comerciales en el Chaco" (ver)
- 3500 Noticias (19/12/20): "Spoljaric: “El Chaco hace historia, los ciudadanos participarán en la administración de la justicia Civil y Comercial” (ver)
- Vía País (18/12/20): "Livio Gutiérrez se expidió sobre la Ley de Juicios Civiles y Comerciales por Jurados" (ver)
- Chaco por Día (17/12/20): "La ministra de Justicia calificó de “histórica” la sanción de la ley de juicios por jurados en el fuero civil y comercial" (ver)
- Infobarranqueras (17/12/20): "Juicios por Jurado en el Chaco: "Es una de las leyes más trascedentes de los últimos años en el país" (ver)
- Diario Judicial (18/12/20): "Jurados para todos los fueros" (ver)
- El Ciudadano de Santa Fe (17/12/20): "Chaco aprobó el juicio por jurado para procesos civiles y comerciales, y es pionera en Latinoamérica" (ver)
- Prensa Obrera (20/12/20): "Juicio por jurados en Chaco: una posición independiente frente a la disputa por el control de la justicia" (ver)
-Chacoenlínea.com (21/12/20): "En un día histórico para la Democracia, Chaco aprobó la Ley de Juicio por Jurados Civil" (ver la nota original)
- DataChaco.com (20/12/20): "Bienvenidos Jurados, que se haga la luz" (ver)
-Class Actions en Argentina (20/12/20): "Sancionaron en Chaco una ley de jurado civil y procesos colectivos (*CHA)" (ver)