Progressive, feminist and distanced from the Fourth Transformation. Norma Piña becomes the first woman to be in charge of the judiciary in Mexico. The new president of the nation’s Supreme Court has been vocal in defending women’s right to choose their bodies and the LGBT community, has spoken out in favor of recreational marijuana use, and opposed the militarization of marijuana’s public safety responsibilities in the country. Piña also came with the mark of being an uncomfortable minister for Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s government, as the candidate who had voted most often against projects favoring the executive branch in the past three years, and with the banner, independence to reaffirm the government’s highest court in the face of pressure and criticism from the president. “I represent women,” she said shortly after her election for the next four years.
“I’m not surprised,” Piña said in an interview with EL PAÍS last November, “you know how I think, how I choose, my beliefs.” In the conversation, the minister spoke bluntly about the pressures the court faced during López Obrador’s presidency, but assured that there was “no fear” among the 11 ministers who make up the Supreme Court and that the attacks by Los Pinos “influence those who allow themselves to be influenced”. The latest attack from the presidential gallery came on Monday, just hours before the vote that elected her. “The judiciary is being kidnapped,” said the executive chief, who raised new allegations of corruption and conflicts of interest during his morning conference.
López Obrador’s words were a first warning to the next person to chair the court, regarding the tone and challenges that remain in the relationship between the two powers. Competition in the judiciary has been marred by plagiarism allegations against Minister Yasmín Esquivel, proposed by the executive branch in 2019, who took microphone minutes before the vote to insist on her innocence and the viability of her candidacy. After three ballots, Piña Alfredo Gutiérrez overtook Ortiz Mena by one vote, the face of continuity of what Arturo Zaldívar had previously done as President of the Supreme Court.
Piña arrives as Presiding Minister with nearly 25 years of experience as a judge and prosecutor. She first graduated as an elementary school teacher from the Benemérita Escuela Nacional de Maestros and began her professional career in the late 1970s as a public school teacher in Mexico City. But the law was a family affair. The daughter of a lawyer who named her Norma because of her passion for the law, she was the only one of her three siblings to earn a law degree. After trying pedagogy and studying psychology and communication in Spain, Piña graduated in law from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) in 1984, where he later did postgraduate studies in constitutional law and obtained his doctorate. He also specialized in criminal law from the Universidad Panamericana and holds a master’s degree in legal reasoning from the University of Alicante.
She was proposed for a seat on the Supreme Court during the government of Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018). After two failed attempts, she eventually replaced Olga Sánchez Cordero in 2015 after being selected from a shortlist of women to ensure gender parity on the pitch. “It’s time for women,” Sánchez Cordero, now a senator and former López Obrador interior minister, celebrated between late 2018 and mid-2021 upon learning of her nomination as prime minister. “Historical day”, Minister Esquivel described. “Historical designation,” has also joined Minister Loretta Ortiz.
Piña has a reputation for being strict among her peers. In 2016 he presented a project called Laguna de Carpinteros, which, with the support of Coca Cola, opposed the construction of an amusement park in Tamaulipas in a mangrove area and was approved unanimously in plenary. The resolution established jurisdiction for citizens to denounce environmental abuses and was the basis for the citizens’ lawsuits filed against the Maya Train, one of López Obrador’s government’s flagship mega-projects. Since 2019, as minister, she has voted in favor of just three out of 18 issues the current government defends, according to a follow-up by Reforma newspaper. In contrast, Esquivel did it in 12 of them.
Asked about the importance of their votes, Piña avoided a direct confrontation with the president, saying that her job is to be a guarantor of the constitution regardless of who holds the presidency and that defending the independence of the judiciary is urgent , leaving aside the political controversy due to the wave of violence that is sweeping the country. “I’ve always been consistent in my decisions, that doesn’t mean I argue with the executive, let alone,” he told the newspaper.
He voted to unconstitutional some articles of the Coahuila Penal Code that criminalized abortion and to abolish informal preventive detention, another contentious issue on the court’s recent agenda. She headed the SCJN’s general gender equality department as well as the judiciary’s gender equality committee. “What seemed like an unreachable glass ceiling has been broken,” she said after her appointment. “I feel accompanied by everyone, supported, agreed, by all of us, I feel very strong because I know that we are all here,” said Piña, who proposed in her work program that vulnerable groups should have access to justice strengthen , make legal procedures transparent and promote a general agreement to end corruption and nepotism.
Reluctant to step into the limelight, the Supreme Court announced after her election that the prime minister does not have a Twitter account, in contrast to the incursion of Zaldívar, her predecessor, into Tik Tok and other social networks. Beyond a change of style and a discussion of the new faces of the judiciary, it is also a presidency that will seek to reaffirm its independence, its role as a counter-majority body, and its importance as a counterweight to the other powers to ensure a majority in plenary. Following Zaldívar’s three-year tenure, Piña’s management will last until December 31, 2026.
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