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Mr. Herrero. Senator, may I address the reasons for my concern there is that if the—since your projects as presented, 710, 711 and 712, apply the electoral law of Puerto Rico—then a certain date should be set as to when it is that that law
The Chairman. I understand.
Mr. Herrero. My concern is that both houses of the legislature are controlled by the Popular Democratic Party. The governorship is controlled by the Popular Democratic Party, which is obviously a partisan in this. If you do not take some measures, then all types of political partisan jockeying can take place to benefit. And I am not just talking about voters outside of Puerto Rico, I am talking about even the present electorate may in some way or fashion—and I think it is just fair to pick a date when no one knew there was a plebiscite.
The Chairman. Yes, I understand the reasons you stated that. And your statement sets that forth very well. I was simply dealing with the mechanics of it. In other words, assuming that what you say is a good idea, that we should freeze that law, is the way that you propose a proper way to do it? And I just wanted to give the other side the right to respond to that.
Ladies and gentlemen, it has been a very excellent day of testimony. We appreciate all the witnesses, who have all contributed greatly to this process. And we will be in recess until 9:00 a.m. tomorrow.
[Whereupon, at 5:47 p.m., the hearing was recessed, to reconvene Saturday, June 17, 1989.]
POLITICAL STATUS OF PUERTO RICO
SATURDAY, JUNE 17, 1989
San Juan, Puerto Rico. The committee met, pursuant to notice, at 9:05 a.m., Hon. J. Bennett Johnston, chairman, presiding.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. J. BENNETT JOHNSTON, U.S. SENATOR FROM LOUISIANA
The Chairman. The hearing will come to order. This morning we have a very formidable witness list. There are five separate panels. Some of the panels have as many as six witnesses each.
In addition to that, we have three individual witnesses. So we must very strictly adhere to the five-minute rule, very strictly. I ask the witnesses please to notice the red light and if you can, summarize your testimony to hit the high points. We can read your statements. You do not have to read your statements. We can read it faster than you can read it to us. The way we really learn something is by being able to have exchanges and questions and answers.
With that, we would like to begin with the Honorable Juan Torruella, who is the Circuit Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. Your honor.
STATEMENT OF HON. JUAN R. TORRUELLA, JUDGE, UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIRST CIRCUIT
Mr. Torruella. Good morning, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. On behalf of the Federal judiciary of Puerto Rico I would like to welcome you to our home.
I am accompanied this morning by two other judges from the District Court, Judge Consuelo Cerezo and Judge Jaime Pieras. I believe you are familiar with my curriculum vitae. I have been a member of the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit which, as you know, covers most of the New England states as well as Puerto Rico. And, prior to that, I sat for 10 years on the United States District Court for Puerto Rico, where I was as chief judge for the last two years.
Before that I engaged in the private practice of law in San Juan, Puerto Rico for 20 years. I was a very active trial lawyer in both the state and the Federal courts, as well as the appellate courts of both jurisdictions.
I appear before you to testify on a narrow portion of the gamut of issues being considered by you. I am not, I repeat, I am not here to promote any particular status solution for Puerto Rico. I am here solely to comment on certain proposals of the legislation being considered which affect the Federal courts as they operate in Puerto Rico.
They are contained in S. 711 and S. 712 and I will not specify the sections. I would just synthesize the areas. First of all, the one dealing with the new procedure for appointment of judges to the Federal bench in Puerto Rico. Second, a statutory abstention rule. Third, a provision for conducting proceedings in Federal court in Spanish at the request of any party.
And fourth, the provision which deals with the removal by the Commonwealth or by officials of the Commonwealth of certain actions that might be filed in U.S. District Court for Puerto Rico, removal to either the District Court of the District of Columbia or the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
The order in which I have mentioned them does not indicate any .particular order of preference or importance. It is simply the way that they appear. These proposals raise serious constitutional and practical issues, only some of which I am at liberty to discuss on the merits.
I believe, however, that I can appropriately point out various areas that appear to require further study by you and your staff. My point of departure on all of these issues is the following.
You should keep in mind that, regardless of Puerto Rico's present status, and I am sure you are aware that there are differences of opinion on that issue, the United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico has, since at least 1966, been an Article III court of the United States. Moreover, and this is an important historical and legal and constitutional fact, the United States District Court for Puerto Rico does not have and never has had jurisdiction over local, non-Article III controversies, as is the case of Article I territorial courts such as exist in the Virgin Islands.
Furthermore, there is a completely separate local judicial system in Puerto Rico, equivalent in all respects to the state court systems of the United States. The Puerto Rican court system, by the way, is conducted completely in Spanish, English having been banned from it several years ago.
Against this backdrop, the proposals that I am referring to raise several interesting constitutional questions that I believe this committee should study in depth before taking further action in this area.
First, can the President's nominating power or the Senate's power to advise and consent on nominations be restricted by this or similar legislation? Second, can Congress enact non-uniform legislation with respect to Article III courts, or judges of equal hierarchy? Can Congress impose requirements on judges of the District Court of Puerto Rico which are different from and, in fact, higher than those of other Article III district judges?
[The prepared statement of Mr. Torruella follows:]
Testimony of Juan R. TorruilH before the ComittM on Energy and
Natural Resources of the United state9 senate on 3. 710. s. 711 and
B. 712 on June 17. 1999 In San Juan. Puerto Rico
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee:
My name is Juan R. Torruella. I am a Judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, which as you know has jurisdiction of appeals from the U.S. District Courts for Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Puerto Rico. I have been a member of this Court since November 1984. From 1974 to 1984, I was a Judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico and was its chief judge during the last two years of my tenure on that Court. Prior to going on the bench I practiced law in San Juan for about 20 years. I had an active practice in both the Puerto Rican and federal courts at both the trial and appellate levels.
I appear before you to testify on a narrow portion of the gamut of issues being considered by you. I am not. I repeat I am not, here to promote any particular status solution for Puerto Rico. I am here solely to comment on certain proposals in the legislation being considered by you which affect the federal courts as they operate in Puerto Rico.
The specific provisions to which I refer are the following: 1* 8, 711
(a) Subpart 5:
"9. Puerto Rican Participation in Federal Appointments
Assure the participation of Puerto Rico in designating candidates for the highest ranking federal appointments