A Mexican Supreme Court justice fights a plagiarism scandal

Earlier this month, Yasmín Esquivel Mossa, a justice on Mexico’s Supreme Court, introduced she was placing herself within the working to develop into the primary lady to steer the court docket in its 198-year historical past.

Now her bid could also be in jeopardy.

Final week a college member at Esquivel’s alma mater accused her of plagiarizing her 1987 undergraduate thesis, which she needed to full to obtain her regulation diploma.

The scandal has ensnared two of Mexico’s most prestigious public establishments — the Supreme Court and the Nationwide Autonomous College of Mexico, generally known as UNAM — and laid naked the nation’s polarized political local weather. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who nominated Esquivel to the court docket in 2019, has downplayed the accusation by calling it an assault by conservatives who oppose his agenda.

“Maybe I made a mistake with the justice, but I prefer that than to find favor with those intellectuals, facilitators of the conservative regime,” he mentioned in a information convention.

Esquivel’s earlier job was main Mexico Metropolis’s high administrative court docket. Civic teams and opposition politicians questioned her Supreme Court nomination for doable battle of curiosity, as a result of she’s married to a authorities contractor they alleged was favored by López Obrador — a declare each males deny.

Esquivel proved to be one in every of López Obrador’s strongest allies on the court docket, supporting a number of initiatives he’s championed. These embody a reform to strengthen the state-run energy utility, a nationwide referendum to resolve whether or not former Mexican presidents ought to be prosecuted for crimes allegedly dedicated whereas in workplace and an try to preserve in place obligatory pretrial detention for individuals accused of sure crimes.

The court docket’s president holds the place for 4 years and decides when circumstances might be mentioned and directs their public debates. The president additionally leads the Federal Judicial Council, which oversees the nation’s federal courts.

To fill the job, the court docket’s 11 justices maintain a vote, which is scheduled for Monday. Esquivel is competing towards 4 different justices — together with one other lady — looking for to switch the outgoing president, Arturo Zaldívar, who will return to being a daily justice.

The accusations towards Esquivel got here in an op-ed revealed within the Mexican information outlet Latinus. The writer, UNAM literature scholar Guillermo Sheridan, wrote that whereas Esquivel studied at FES Aragón, a faculty inside UNAM, she plagiarized the 1986 thesis of one other pupil. Sheridan included images of every thesis. Each look at union safety for staff and have almost equivalent cowl pages, indexes and sections within the first chapter.

The college opened an investigation amid requires scrutiny from the authorized neighborhood and issued a press release final week saying that “there exists a high level of similarities between both texts.”

Esquivel denied the plagiarism declare, posting letters from educational supervisors who vouched for her. A couple of days later she posted a letter on Twitter that mentioned the accusation was “based on lies and defamations” and alleged that the opposite pupil, Edgar Ulises Báez Gutiérrez, had plagiarized her.

It maintained that she had began to analysis her thesis in 1985, a yr earlier than his thesis was revealed. Báez has not commented publicly.

Esquivel’s declare solely invited ridicule, launching a spate of memes based mostly on the movie “Back to the Future” that likened Báez to protagonist Marty McFly and recommended he had traveled in time to steal Esquivel’s thesis.

“There’s a factor of time that’s almost impossible to explain,” mentioned Javier Martín Reyes, a constitutional regulation professional at UNAM. “The evidence is not on Yasmin Esquivel’s side and her strategy has been to deny it.”

The accusation is unlikely to matter a lot to López Obrador’s sizable base.

“The war here, politically speaking, is very cruel against the government of the ‘Fourth Transformation,’ ” mentioned Patricia Salazar, a 56-year-old retiree who lives within the western state of Michoacan, utilizing the president’s time period for his leftist social and financial agenda. “They don’t know who to attack anymore, so they’re attacking his people.”

She mentioned she lacks confidence in UNAM’s investigation, echoing feedback by López Obrador that the college is crammed with conservatives. “It’s not going to be a fair trial,” she mentioned.

It’s unclear what would occur if Esquivel is discovered responsible of plagiarism and loses her regulation diploma, a requirement for Supreme Court justices. Justices can resign for “grave reasons” or be impeached in Congress.

Not escaping public scrutiny is the professor who oversaw Esquivel’s thesis, Martha Rodriguez. In his op-ed, Sheridan mentioned that she had supervised Báez’s thesis in addition to two others — written in 2008 and 2010 — and contended that every one three had been almost equivalent. And the newspaper El Pais reported this week that it had discovered seven theses directed by Rodriguez exhibiting totally different levels of plagiarism.

Rodríguez was a prolific thesis supervisor, asserting in a letter defending Esquivel that she had overseen greater than 500 theses in 45 years. In a column for the Mexican information outlet Reforma, investigative journalist Peniley Ramirez questioned that charge as “an unheard of velocity.”

Ramirez requested whether or not UNAM would overview all of the theses Rodríguez had overseen and drew consideration to what could possibly be at stake.

“If the UNAM determines that there was plagiarism and removes Esquivel’s title and license, what will happen to all the cases she’s judged in her career and in the court?” she wrote.