Four of the island’s Supreme Court Justices look on as Gov. Fortuño speaks. Daily Sun/César Silva

Study shows no need to increase number of Supreme Court justices


Sunday, February 28, 2010
by Inter News Wire Service

A study by the consulting firm Ipsos Public Affairs found that there is no need to increase the number of commonwealth Supreme Court justices to nine from seven, and recommended that the La Fortaleza proposal be examined “more profoundly.”

The investigation included an analysis of pending and resolved cases as well as the number of cases filed and the number of justices. (Inter News Service did not report who commissioned the study.)“The Fortuño administration has said that the proper use of public funds is a goal for the common good; therefor this [potential increase] … should be studied more profoundly to determine its necessity,” the study states.For the study, Ipsos took into account factors such as the cost of adding two justices to the bench, caseloads and the time it takes to decide cases. Ipsos said a larger number of justices would not necessarily make the court more efficient.As of June 30, 2009, there were 135 cases pending, or 26 fewer than at the same date in 2008. The average number of outstanding cases over the past 10 years is 139, according to the study.As the same date the court had ruled on 1,257 cases, more than the previous year. The historic average for the last decade is 1,287 cases, according to the study.

Although the number of justices at times has varied due to retirement, deaths and other circumstances, “the data show that the functioning … [of the court] has not been negatively affected. In fact, more cases are decided [when there are] fewer justices,” according to the study.The Appeals Court, which has 36 judges, has also reduced the number of cases the Supreme Court has to decide, according to the study, which also noted that 90 percent of state Supreme Courts consist of seven or fewer justices.There were nine Supreme Court justices in Puerto Rico from 1961 to 1975.