By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
In the ever-astonishing continuing saga of Mexican Supreme Court (SCJN) Justice Yasmín Esquivel — who despite having been shown to have plagiarized her professional thesis that allowed her to be credited as a lawyer remains in her post at the SCJN — there are yet new twists and turns to keep an anxious Mexican audience on the edge of their seats.
Taking full advantage of her position on Mexico’s highest court, Esquivel spent most of last week launching an aggressive legal strategy to try to avoid the inevitable ruling against her by the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), where she presented the allegedly plagiarized thesis in 1987. (The thesis she “allegedly” plagiarized was published a full year ahead of hers.)
And since Esquivel has good friends in high places — from the courtroom to the presidency — her efforts paid off in spades, with a Mexican court on Thursday, Feb. 16, ordering the UNAM to remain silent regarding the case that is now being reviewed by its University Ethics Committee (Cuethica).
In other words, in the topsy-turvy world of perverse judicial distortions — the hallmark of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s (AMLO) leftist National Regeneration Movement (Morena) administration — under the ruling, the UNAM has become the alleged offender and Esquivel the victim.
Esquivel resorted to a legal appeal in order to both invalidate and derail the deliberation process initiated by the Cuethica to disbar her.
And through it, she had managed to silence the university and its rector, Enrique Graue, who has his own personal battles to wage with his reelection as the head of the nation’s most important institute of higher learning.
The appeal that Esquivel managed to get approved by the courts is a doozy: “The appeal that Yasmín Esquivel requested is to find out more information about her case by the Ethics Committee of the UNAM was created in August 2019. By law, its decisions have no relevancy on events that occurred previously, that is, in 2018. Therefore, its resolutions will not have any effect on events that occurred 37 years ago, since it is not retroactive. It is not intended to stop the investigation, since, as a lawyer, Esquivel has sought to take the case through legal channels and not litigate it before the media.”
It is true, that Esquivel, the wife of a controversial engineer who has become a go-to favorite of López Obrador for the contracting of dubious and financially undisclosed megaprojects, has become a favorite target of an unrelenting Mexican press, but trying to blame the guy whose thesis you allegedly copied — a thesis that was presented to the UNAM a full year prior to your own — hasn’t exactly endeared her to a truth-seeking media.
But back to Esquivel’s appeal…
It went on to state that “it was issued as a means of knowing the legality, procedure and guidelines of the Cuethica in this case because, by UNAM statutes, it only has the powers to monitor and address ethical issues inherent to the general directorate of the UNAM’s libraries and digital information services, but not for alumni.”
In short, the appeal states that since Esquivel already graduated and has her degree, so “too bad, so sad,” she gets to keep it, and the UNAM ends up with egg on its face but no pan to fry it or the Supreme Court justice in.
Ever since the Esquivel plagiarism scandal started late last year, she has insisted that it was she, in fact, who was the victim of the person who copied her thesis. (Obviously, the other lawyer candidate, Edgar Báez Gutiérrez, had undue access to a time machine and snuck into the future to grab a peek at her work.)
“The tests and evidence are more than compelling. There is no doubt anywhere in the world that Esquivel is the original author of the work and is the victim of the case,” the appeal concluded.
During her appearance before the Cuethica, Esquivel’s lawyers presented a total of 18 technical, scientific and testimonial pieces of evidence that they claimed proved that she was the original author of the thesis in dispute.
That perception of the “evidence” is yet to be confirmed by the Cuethica.
Meanwhile, on Friday, Feb. 17, the UNAM, in an official statement, responded to the appeal by saying that, although it fully respects and will abide by what was ordered in the provisional suspension granted by Mexico’s Fifth District Court for Administrative Matters to not disclose any information related to the case of plagiarism, it is considering “resorting to the legal resources granted to it by law” to contest that ruling.
The UNAM also said that it “regrets and cannot agree with the court order that seeks to silence it, restricting its freedom and the right to information of all university students and Mexican society.”
And back in the Supreme Court, after more than a month and a half of complaints and accusations of plagiarism against one of its members, the new Chief Justice Norma Piña announced, also on Friday, that the SCJN has reviewed the mounting accusations against Esquivel and will soon make a decision as to how to react.
The “consultation” was turned over to Justice Juan Luis González Alcántara, who now must decide what procedures and actions should be taken, if any, regarding the complaints against Esquivel.
And in yet another Catch-22-style ruling, the SCJN issued a statement saying that the complaints against Esquivel “are unclear and offer no clarity as to how to proceed against an acting justice for events that did not occur during her appointment to the SCJN, which began in 2019, but rather 35 years ago,” thus kicking the can down the road another block or so.
Stay tuned for the next episode in this wonderfully sordid saga.