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Northwestern Law to Honor Guatemalan Judge

Gloria Patricia Porras Escobar to receive Global Jurist of the Year Award

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January 6, 2016 | by Hilary Hurd Anyaso

CHICAGO --- Northwestern Pritzker School of Law’s Center for International Human Rights (CIHR) will award its third annual Global Jurist of the Year Award to the Honorable Gloria Patricia Porras Escobar, president of the Guatemalan Constitutional Court. 

The awards ceremony and an address by Judge Porras will take place on Tuesday, Jan. 26. At noon she will deliver an address to the Law School community in the Rubloff Building, 375 E. Chicago Ave., on the Law School’s Chicago campus.

At 6:30 p.m. CIHR will host the award ceremony and dinner for Judge Porras in the Law School’s Bluhm Legal Clinic. For more information about attending the dinner, contact Juliet Sorensen, clinical associate professor of law at Northwestern. Both events will be open to the media.

Judge Porras was elected to the Court in 2011. She has adjudicated some of the most crucial issues in Guatemala today, showing leadership and commitment to the rule of law in the face of adversity and considerable political pressure. For example, in May 2013, the case of former de-facto head of State General Efraín Rios Montt came to the Court on procedural grounds following his conviction for genocide and crimes against humanity. Judge Porras dissented in allowing the injunctive relief requested by Montt because the matter was not in the Court’s competence. The majority opinion effectively nullified the guilty verdict that had been issued against Rios Montt 10 days before.

In 2015, Judge Porras led the Court in a 3-2 vote to approve the removal of the Guatemalan President’s investigative immunity in the midst of a deepening corruption scandal, which already had resulted in the resignation of the vice president. This followed a decision by the Court to temporarily block the investigation in a 3-2 vote in which Porras was absent and replaced by an alternate. As a result of the investigation, the President of Guatemala resigned on Sept. 3 and was charged with bribery and related charges five days later. Last November, Judge Porras’ own colleague on the Court was arrested and charged by the U.S. in the FIFA international fraud case. 

“These are but two examples of Judge Porras’ commitment to justice in a fragile state, often at great personal risk of reprisals,” said David Scheffer, Mayer Brown/Robert A. Helman Professor of Law at Northwestern and director of the CIHR. “We are delighted that she has agreed to accept the award and look forward to her joining us in January.”

The Global Jurist of the Year Award is designed to honor a sitting judge, whether in an international or national court, who has demonstrated in his or her career courage in the face of adversity to uphold and defend fundamental human rights or the principles of international criminal justice. Jurists from all nations and tribunals are eligible for consideration.

Last year, Justice Shireen Avis Fisher, president of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, received the award. Acting Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke of South Africa’s Constitutional Court received the award in 2013 as the first recipient of the Global Jurist Award.

Topics: Honors